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13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves.
14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.
15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple,
e Isaiah lvi. 7.
f Jer. vii. 11; Mark xi.17; Luke xix. 46.
of the Gentiles that frankincence, oil, wine, doves, lambs, and oxen were sold, after the victims had been examined and approved by the priests.
Money changers.—The Koλλußiotai were persons who exchanged foreign for the current coin of Judea, or the contrary, to meet the convenience of those who came up to the feasts from distant countries. Hence they had their tables in this court, and, as the passover was now at hand, would be in the height of their unhallowed business, which ought to have been transacted in a less sacred place.
Them that sold doves.-Which, being the offerings of the poor, would at so great a feast as that of the passover be in considerable demand, from the concourse of those who reserved their offerings to this season. The practice of making the courts of the temple a place of traffic was probably introduced from the Greeks and Romans. It was evidently regarded by our Lord as a great abuse, under whatever pretence of affording facility to the performance of the appointed services of the temple it might be defended. The noise would disturb the more serious worshippers; and various cheats and impositions were practised, as we may gather from our Lord charging them with having made his house "a den of thieves." It would seem remarkable that this profanation was suffered by the priests, who were so scrupulous and exact in whatever appertained to the honour of their temple; but there has been, in all ages, great inconsistency among ceremonious formalists, and superstition and irreverence are often found together.
Verse 13. It is written, My house, &c.
This is quoted from Isaiah lvi. 7, "For mine house shall he called a house of prayer for all people." In referring to this prophecy our Lord not only reproves the profanity and wicked avarice which had made the house of prayer a bazaar or market-house, but the contempt poured upon the pious Gentiles, or heathen proselytes, who had a right to worship there, and whose court they had invaded so as not only to occupy it with stalls for cattle, seats for them that sold doves, and the tables of money-changers, but as to fill it with distracting noise and confusion, wholly subversive of its original and gracious intention. Instead of a place for offering up prayer by the pious "stranger," whom God had promised to make "joyful in his house of prayer," they had made it a den of thieves; an expression used probably in allusion to the rocky caves or dens in the mountainous parts of Judea, which were often the receptacles of robbers. Something of miraculous power must have attended this act of our Lord, to overawe the numerous and bold intruders into the court of the temple, and especially as he overthrew their tables and seats. Yet there was nothing in this act but what was consistent with the views which the Jews entertained of the Messiah, who, as they believed, would reform many abuses, and bring in many new laws, with great authority. Hence, when on a former occasion he vindicated the honour of God's house, his disciples were reminded of the prophetic words, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up."
Verse 15. The wonderful things that he did.-Not referring so much to his heal
and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased,
16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?
g Psalm viii. 2.
ing the blind and the lame in the temple, for they could scarcely adapt their question, "By what authority doest thou these things?" to the working such cures; but what they wondered at was his public entry; his allowing the people to acclaim their hosannas to him as the Messiah; his acting in the temple as though it were his own house, which his words implied; and his expelling the traders with severity and authority. To this was added a scene which especially appears to have excited their malignant envy the very children, allured probably by his mild dignity, or rather under the special influence of God, to make them witnesses of the truth, and thus to accomplish a prophecy, were surrounding him in the temple, and crying, Hosanna to the Son of David." And they were sore displeased, filled with indignation.
Verse 16. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, &c.—This is from Psalm viii. 2. The Hebrew is, "Thou hast founded or constituted strength;" but the evangelist follows the Septuagint, thou hast perfected or ordained praise; the sense being equivalent. Their praises strongly and irresistibly declared the majesty and fame of God. These words are not introduced with the usual formula, "Now this was done that it might be fulfilled," or, "Thus was fulfilled," and therefore we are not obliged to consider them adduced as a prophecy accomplished by the event; and the argument of Christ with the Pharisees will be sufficiently conclusive without regarding them in this light. Still, even this passage is not an instance of accommodation, properly so called, which supposes no relation but that of a verbal similarity to the subject illustrated. The Psalm from which they are taken celebrates the praises of God for our redemp
tion, by him who was made “ a little," or for a little while, "lower than the angels," and then “crowned with glory and honour," having all things "put under his feet." This the apostle Paul applies directly to Christ, and includes in it the wonderful exaltation of fallen human nature in him. The Psalm is thus introduced, "O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth; who hast set thy glory above the heavens." But who acknowledges this glory of God in human redemption? Not the "enemies" mentioned in the next verse, but the "babes and sucklings" "out of whose mouth " God is said to have ordained "strength, because of his enemies, and to still the enemy and the avenger." Now, since this strength was ordained out of the mouth, it must be understood of the strength of speech, strength of doctrine, and strength of praise; which most fitly applies to the apostles and disciples of our Lord, who were, in the estimation of the world, weak and inefficient as babes and sucklings, and yet by their asserting the claims of Christ, and proclaiming his praises, they silenced his most potent enemies, making the glory of God in the redemption of mankind by his Son to fill the civilized world, and to be almost universally acknowledged. Thus by these weak instruments were those mighty results accomplished, which brought so much glory to God, and so mightily confounded his "enemies." Now of this the praises of the little children in the temple were a beautiful type: Christ was first publicly acknowledged and publicly praised in his temple by children, and that to the confusion of his enemies, who were struck dumb themselves, but could not silence them; and there is nothing improbable in supposing that, as a fine
17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.
18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
19h And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
h Mark xi. 13.
emblem was thus exhibited of the manner in which the enemies of Christ would be "stilled" or silenced by that "strength" which God was about to ordain out of the mouths of the apostles, so this emblematical representation of a most interesting truth and important fact was not the result of accident, but of the over-ruling providence of God. For that there was something remarkable in the case, appears from the children not being mentioned as taking a part in the hosannas of the procession on the way to and through Jerusalem, but only in the temple. and that in the very presence of "the enemies," the chief priests and scribes; and also that then only their acclamations are mentioned, not those of any others. It would seem as if these children were collected there and moved upon by a supernatural impulse to repeat the joyful songs and hosannas which had been sung by the multitude in the streets and along the way to Jerusalem. And if so, we may conclude that this singular event, arranged by God, to be an emblem of one much higher, even of that which should fully, and in the highest sense, accomplish the prophecy, was also referred to in this prophetic Psalm itself, and was in its degree a direct accomplishment of it. It is no small confirmation of this view, -that the children in the temple, publishing the claims and honours of Christ, were emblems of the apostles and the other disciples, that Christ himself calls them "babes," in contrast to the learned and influential of the world. "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."
Verse 17. And lodged there.-Huλion, he passed the night, not in the village at the house of Lazarus, but probably sub dio, in the open air, among the olive-trees with which the district abounded; for it is added, " in the morning when he returned to the city he was hungry," which he could scarcely he in coming so short a distance as two miles from the house of Lazarus, had he been entertained there. Our blessed Lord chose this for the sake of solitude and prayer, knowing that "his hour" was approaching; and also no doubt to avoid suspicion, that he was plotting by night with his followers and the populace to seize the government. It was this circumstance, probably, which prevented the Roman governor from taking any alarm. All that Christ did was in the day, and at night he departed from the city.
Verse 19. A fig tree in the way. —ΣVÊNν plav, one fig tree; so spoken of, either because it stood alone, which is scarcely probable, as Bethphage, which lay in the way, had its name from the abundance of fig trees in its neighbourhood; or as one more branchy and verdant than the rest, and which therefore gave greater promise of fruit; and was on that account the better emblem of the Jewish nation, to whose rejection the miracle had a direct reference. But he found nothing thereon but leaves only.-St. Mark adds, "for the time of figs was not yet;" that is, the time of gathering them had not arrived, and
20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!
21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
therefore the absence of figs arose from nothing but the barrenness of the tree. This is the plain sense of ου γαρ ην καιρος συκων, as appears from Matt. xxi. 34, o kaιρος των καρπων, “and when the time of the fruit drew near." So unnecessarily have commentators often puzzled themselves and their readers about a plain matter.
In causing this fig tree to wither away, our Lord invaded no private property, as it stood by the way side, and belonged to no one; and besides, being hopelessly barren, it had no value. See note on Mark xi. 13.
Verse 20. And when the disciples saw it, &c.-St. Matthew does not mark the order of time, but merely relates the fact: from St. Mark we learn that it was on the next morning, in coming to Jerusalem on the same road, that the disciples noticed that the fig tree was wholly withered. At this they "marvelled," and Christ designed that it should arrest their attention. It was not an act of passionate disappointment in him to curse the fig tree because he found no fruit thereon, as infidels have profanely asserted, which is refuted by his whole character, on which a calm dignity was constantly impressed; he knew that there was no fruit on it, and he might have gone to other trees, where his wants might have been supplied; but he intended to teach his disciples an awful lesson by an emblem which not only pointed out the doom of a degenerate nation, of whose hypocritical and delusive pretensions the barren fig tree was a sign, but also that of hypocrites and apostates from his religion; for to this event St. Jude appears strikingly to allude when he marks the character and fate of such persons, as "trees whose
fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots."
Verse 21. If ye have faith, and doubt not, &c.-The lesson just mentioned Christ leaves the disciples to infer; but he teaches them, from the sudden withering of the fig tree, at his word, the efficiency of faith. The addition, "and doubt not," un diakpiente, is added, not in the sense of discriminate, but as equivalent to disaw; and thus to believe and doubt not, signifies the highest degree of faith in God. In all such cases of working miracles through faith, a special revelation or impression as to the will of God is, however, supposed; for the confidence of man has no warrant beyond God's promise. The sense is well expressed by Mr. Baxter, “Nothing shall be too hard which God hath promised, and ye by faith and prayer are fit to receive." Hence the apostles wrought their miracles in the most solemn manner, as men in immediate communication with God, and acting under intimations from him; and to show that this power was not one so residing in them as to be wielded at pleasure, our Lord adds, "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive;" which, however, supposes, that we ask, as St. John says, "according to the will of God;" which applies to the receiving of the power to work miracles, as well as more generally to blessings, ordinarily and more specially promised not only to the apostles, but to all believers in all future ages. For this encouragement to believing prayer is not, like the working of miracles, to be confined to the apostles, but is a general promise. Whatever is asked in faith,
22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive.
23 'And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?
24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.
25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?
i Mark xi. 27; Luke xx. 1.
agreeably to the will of God, and which we are authorized to make the subject of our supplications, as being contained in his covenant promises, shall be given, though apparently impossible to attain, and though really so, independent of the immediate exertion of the power of God. To remove a mountain, is a proverbial phrase for performing things the most difficult or impossible. Hence the Jews say of an acute doctor, one who is able to solve the most intricate questions, "He is a rooter up of mountains."
Verse 23. The chief priests and elders of the people. These were the members of the great council, or Sanhedrim, and they came to him in their official capacity; for it belonged to them to inquire into the pretensions of all who assumed the office of prophet, and to punish any whom they might determine had taken that character falsely. Hence in a Rabbinical tract entitled "Sanhedrim," it is said, “A tribe, a false prophet, or a high priest, is only amenable to the council of seventy-one judges." These members of the council, therefore, demanded his authority for making a public entry into Jerusalein, for casting out the traders from their accustomed place of permitted traffic, and for teaching in the temple; so that, should he allege the authority of God, and explicitly profess the prophetic
office, they might immediately call him before the council, and sit in judgment upon his claims. They probably also chose to seek a confession from his own mouth that he was a prophet, and to take advantage of any thing on which they might found a charge of blasphemy, rather than apprehend him without some new charge which the popular excitement in his favour might, as they supposed, render somewhat dangerous. Our Lord baffles this plot with the highest wisdom, because his "hour was not yet come," and he had yet to deliver many weighty discourses, and for the public benefit to bear a severer testimony against the bypocrisy and wickedness of this cunning and corrupt race of men.
Verse 25. The baptism of John, &c.— That is, the ministry of John, of which baptism upon repentance, and faith in the immediate advent of Messiah, was so prominent a part; which ministry John fulfilled under the profession of divine authority. The way in which our Lord put the case was, as though he said, "You affect to determine who are true and who are false prophets. Now John professed to be a prophet: was his authority from heaven, or of men? was he a real or only a pretended messenger from God?" The dilemma into which they were thrown is confessed among themselves, and was