Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible, by Matthew Henry, , at sacred-texts.com
In this chapter, we have, I. Christ's casting the legion of devils out of the man possessed, and suffering them to enter into the swine (v. 1-20). II. Christ's healing the woman with the bloody issue, in the way as he was going to raise Jairus's daughter to life (v. 21-43). These three miracles we had the story of before (Mat 8:28, etc. and Mat 9:18, etc.) but more fully related here.
We have here an instance of Christ's dispossessing the strong man armed, and disposing of him as he pleased, to make it appear that he was stronger than he. This he did when he was come to the other side, whither he went through a storm; his business there was to rescue this poor creature out of the hands of Satan, and when he had done that, he returned. Thus he came from heaven to earth, and returned, in a storm, to redeem a remnant of mankind out of the hands of the devil, though but a little remnant, and did not think his pains ill bestowed.
In Matthew, they were said to be two possessed with devils; here it is said to be a man possessed with an unclean spirit. If there were two, there was one, and Mark doth not say that there was but one; so that this difference cannot give us any just offence; it is probable that one of them was much more remarkable than the other, and said what was said. Now observe here,
I. The miserable condition that this poor creature was in; he was under the power of an unclean spirit, the devil got possession of him, and the effect of it was not, as in many, a silent melancholy, but a raging frenzy; he was raving mad; his condition seems to have been worse than any of the possessed, that were Christ's patients.
1. He had his dwelling among the tombs, among the graves of dead people. Their tombs were out of the cities, in desolate places (Job 3:14); which gave the devil great advantage: for woe to him that is alone. Perhaps the devil drove him to the tombs, to make people fancy that the souls of the dead were turned into daemons, and did what mischief was done, so to excuse themselves from it. The touch of a grave was polluting, Num 19:16. The unclean spirit drives people into that company that is defiling, and so keeps possession of them. Christ, by rescuing souls out of Satan's power, saves the living from among the dead.
2. He was very strong and ungovernable; No man could bind him, as it is requisite both for their own good, and for the safety of others, that those who are distracted should be. Not only cords would not hold him, but chains and fetters of iron would not, Mar 5:3, Mar 5:4. Very deplorable is the case of such as need to be thus bound, and of all miserable people in this world they are most to be pitied; but his case was worst of all, in whom the devil was so strong, that he could not be bound. This sets forth the sad condition of those souls in which the devil has dominion; those children of disobedience, in whom that unclean spirit works. Some notoriously wilful sinners are like this madman; all are herein like the horse and the mule, that they need to be held in with bit and bridle; but some are like the wild ass, that will not be so held. The commands and curses of the law are as chains and fetters, to restrain sinners from their wicked courses; but they break those bands in sunder, and it is an evidence of the power of the devil in them.
3. He was a terror and torment to himself and to all about him, Mar 5:5. The devil is a cruel master to those that are led captive by him, a perfect tyrant; this wretched creature was night and day in the mountains and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones, either bemoaning his own deplorable case, or in a rage and indignation against heaven. Men in frenzies often wound and destroy themselves; what is a man, when reason is dethroned and Satan enthroned? The worshippers of Baal in their fury cut themselves, like this madman in his. The voice of God is, Do thyself no harm; the voice of Satan is, Do thyself all the harm thou canst; yet God's word is despised, and Satan's regarded. Perhaps his cutting himself with stones was only cutting his feet with the sharp stones he ran barefoot upon.
II. His application to Christ (Mar 5:6); When he saw Jesus afar off, coming ashore, he ran, and worshipped him. He usually ran upon others with rage, but he ran to Christ with reverence. That was done by an invisible hand of Christ, which could not be done with chains and fetters; his fury was all on a sudden curbed. Even the devil, in this poor creature, was forced to tremble before Christ, and bow to him: or, rather, the poor man came, and worshipped Christ, in a sense of the need he had of his help, the power of Satan in and over him being, for this instant, suspended.
III. The word of command Christ gave to the unclean spirit, to quit his possession (Mar 5:8); Come out of him, thou unclean spirit. He made the man desirous to be relieved, when he enabled him to run, and worship him, and then put forth his power for his relief. If Christ work in us heartily to pray for a deliverance from Satan, he will work for us that deliverance. Here is an instance of the power and authority with which Christ commanded the unclean spirits, and they obeyed him, Mar 1:27. He said, Come out of the man. The design of Christ's gospel is to expel unclean spirits out of the souls of people; "Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit, that the Holy Spirit may enter, may take possession of the heart, and have dominion in it."
IV. The dread which the devil had of Christ. The man ran, and worshipped Christ; but it was the devil in the man, that cried with a loud voice (making use of the poor man's tongue), What have I to do with thee? Mar 5:7. Just as that other unclean spirit, Mar 1:24. 1. He calls God the most high God, above all other gods. By the name Elion - the Most High, God was known among the Phoenicians, and the other nations that bordered upon Israel; and by that name the devil calls him. 2. He owns Jesus to be the Son of God. Note, It is no strange thing to hear the best words drop from the worst mouths. There is such a way of saying this as none can attain to but by the Holy Ghost (Co1 12:3); yet it may be said, after a sort, by the unclean spirit. There is no judging of men by their loose sayings; but by their fruits ye shall know them. Piety from the teeth outward is an easy thing. The most fair-spoken hypocrite cannot say better than to call Jesus the Son of God, and yet that the devil did. 3. He disowns any design against Christ; "What have I to do with thee? I have no need of thee, I pretend to none; I desire to have nothing to do with thee; I cannot stand before thee, and would not fall." 4. He deprecates his wrath; I adjure thee, that is, "I earnestly beseech thee, by all that is sacred, I beg of thee for God's sake, by whose permission I have got possession of this man, that, though thou drive me out hence, yet that thou torment me not, that thou do not restrain me from doing mischief somewhere else; though I know I am sentenced, yet let me not be sent to the chains of darkness, or hindered from going to and fro, to devour."
V. The account Christ took from this unclean spirit of his name. This we had not in Matthew. Christ asked him, What is thy name? Not but that Christ could call all the fallen stars, as well as the morning stars, by their names; but he demands this, that the standers by might be affected with the vast numbers and power of those malignant infernal spirits, as they had reason to be, when the answer was, My name is Legion, for we are many; a legion of soldiers among the Romans consisted, some say, of six thousand men, others of twelve thousand and five hundred; but the number of a legion with them, like that of a regiment with us, was not always the same. Now this intimates that the devils, the infernal powers, are, 1. Military powers; a legion is a number of soldiers in arms. The devils war against God and his glory, Christ and his gospel, men and their holiness and happiness. They are such as we are to resist and wrestle against, Eph 6:12. 2. That they are numerous; he owns, or rather he boasts - We are many; as if he hoped to be too many for Christ himself to deal with. What multitudes of apostate spirits were there, and all enemies to God and man; when here were a legion posted to keep garrison in one poor wretched creature against Christ! Many there are that rise up against us. 3. That they are unanimous; they are many devils, and yet but one legion engaged in the same wicked cause; and therefore that cavil of the Pharisees, which supposed Satan to cast out Satan, and to be divided against himself, was altogether groundless. It was not one of this legion that betrayed the rest, for they all said, as one man, What have I to do with thee? 4. That they are very powerful; Who can stand before a legion? We are not a match for our spiritual enemies, in our own strength; but in the Lord, and in the power of his might, we shall be able to stand against them, though there are legions of them. 5. That there is order among them, as there is in a legion; there are principalities, and powers, and rulers of the darkness of this world, which supposes that there are those of a lower rank; the devil and his angels; the dragon and his; the prince of the devils and his subjects: which makes those enemies the more formidable.
VI. The request of this legion, that Christ would suffer them to go into a herd of swine that was feeding nigh unto the mountains (Mar 5:11), those mountains which the demoniacs haunted, Mar 5:5. Their request was, 1. That he would not send them away out of the country (Mar 5:10); not only that he would not commit them, or confine them, to their infernal prison, and so torment them before the time; but that he would not banish them that country, as justly he might, because in this poor man they had been such a terror to it, and done so much mischief. They seem to have had a particular affection for that country; or, rather, a particular spite to it; and to have liberty to walk to and fro through the rest of the earth, will not serve (Job 1:7), unless the range of those mountains be allowed them for their pasture, Job 39:8. But why would they abide in that country? Grotius saith, Because in that country there were many apostate Jews, who had thrown themselves out of the covenant of God, and had thereby given Satan power over them. And some suggest, that, having by experience got the knowledge of the dispositions and manners of the people of that country, they could the more effectually do them mischief by their temptations. 2. That he would suffer them to enter into the swine, by destroying which they hoped to do more mischief to the souls of all the people in the country, than they could by entering into the body of any particular person, which therefore they did not ask leave to do, for they knew Christ would not grant it.
VII. The permission Christ gave them to enter into the swine, and the immediate destruction of the swine thereby; He gave them leave (Mar 5:13), he did not forbid or restrain them, he let them do as they had a mind. Thus he would let the Gadarenes see what powerful spiteful enemies devils are, that they might thereby be induced to make him their Friend, who alone was able to control and conquer them, and had made it appear that he was so. Immediately the unclean spirits entered into the swine, which by the law were unclean creatures, and naturally love to wallow in the mire, the fittest place for them. Those that, like the swine, delight in the mire of sensual lusts, are fit habitations for Satan, and are, like Babylon, the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird (Rev 18:2), as pure souls are habitations of the Holy Spirit. The consequence of the devils entering into the swine, was, that they all ran mad presently, and ran headlong into the adjoining sea, where they were all drowned, to the number of two thousand. The man they possessed did only cut himself, for God had said, He is in your hands, only save his life. But thereby it appeared, that, if he had not been so restrained, the poor man would have drowned himself. See how much we are indebted to the providence of God, and the ministration of good angels, for our preservation from malignant spirits.
VIII. The report of all this dispersed through the country immediately. They that fed the swine, hastened to the owners, to give an account of their charge, Mar 5:14. This drew the people together, to see what was done: and, 1. When they saw how wonderfully the poor man was cured, they hence conceived a veneration for Christ, Mar 5:15. They saw him that was possessed with the devil, and knew him well enough, by the same token that they had many a time been frightened at the sight of him; and were now as much surprised to see him sitting clothed and in his right mind; when Satan was cast out, he came to himself, and was his own man presently. Note, Those who are grave and sober, and live by rule and with consideration, thereby make it appear that by the power of Christ the devil's power is broken in their souls. The sight of this made them afraid; it astonished them, and forced them to own the power of Christ, and that he is worthy to be feared. But, 2. When they found that their swine were lost, they thence conceived a dislike of Christ, and wished to have rather his room than his company; they prayed him to depart out of their coasts, for they think not any good he can do them sufficient to make them amends for the loss of so many swine, fat swine, it may be, and ready for the market. Now the devils had what they would have; for by no handle do these evil spirits more effectually manage sinful souls than by that of the love of the world. They were afraid of some further punishment, if Christ should tarry among them, whereas, if they would but part with their sins, he had life and happiness for them; but, being loth to quit either their sins or their swine, they chose rather to abandon their Saviour. Thus they do, who, rather than let go a base lust, will throw away their interest in Christ, and their expectations from him. They should rather have argued, "If he has such a power as this over devils and all creatures, it is good having him our Friend; if the devils have leave to tarry in our country (Mar 5:10), let us entreat him to tarry in it too, who alone can control them." But, instead of this, they wished him further off. Such strange misconstructions do carnal hearts make of the just judgments of God; instead of being by them driven to him as they ought, they set him at so much the greater distance; though he hath said, Provoke me not, and I will do you no hurt, Jer 25:6.
IX. An account of the conduct of the poor man after his deliverance. 1. He desired that he might go along with Christ (Mar 5:18), perhaps for fear lest the evil spirit should again seize him; or, rather, that he might receive instruction from him, being unwilling to stay among those heathenish people that desired him to depart. Those that are freed from the evil spirit, cannot but covet acquaintance and fellowship with Christ. 2. Christ would not suffer him to go with him, lest it should savour of ostentation, and to let him know that he could both protect and instruct him at a distance. And besides, he had other work for him to do; he must go home to his friends, and tell them what great things the Lord had done for him, the Lord Jesus had done; that Christ might be honoured, and his neighbours and friends might be edified, and invited to believe in Christ. He must take particular notice rather of Christ's pity than of his power, for that is it which especially he glories in; he must tell them what compassion the Lord had had on him in his misery. 3. The man, in a transport of joy, proclaimed, all the country over, what great things Jesus had done for him, Mar 5:20. This is a debt we owe both to Christ and to our brethren, that he may be glorified and they edified. And see what was the effect of it; All men did marvel, but few went any further. Many that cannot but wonder at the works of Christ, yet do not, as they ought, wonder after him.
The Gadarenes having desired Christ to leave their country, he did not stay to trouble them long, but presently went by water, as he came, back to the other side (Mar 5:21), and there much people gathered to him. Note, If there be some that reject Christ, yet there are others that receive him, and bid him welcome. A despised gospel will cross the water, and go where it will have better entertainment. Now among the many that applied themselves to him,
I. Here is one, that comes openly to beg a cure for a sick child; and it is no less a person than one of the rulers of the synagogue, one that presided in the synagogue-worship or, as some think, one of the judges of the consistory court, which was in every city, consisting of twenty-three. He was not named in Matthew, he is here, Jairus, or Jair, Jdg 10:3. He addressed himself to Christ, though a ruler, with great humility and reverence; When he saw him, he fell at his feet, giving honour to him as one really greater than he appeared to be; and with great importunity, he besought him greatly, as one in earnest, as one that not only valued the mercy he came for, but that knew he could obtain it no where else. The case is this, He has a little daughter, about twelve years old, the darling of the family, and she lies a dying; but he believes that if Christ will but come, and lay his hands upon her, she will return even from the gates of the grave. He said, at first, when he came, She lies a dying (so Mark); but afterward, upon fresh information sent him, he saith, She is even now dead (so Matthew); but he still prosecutes his suit; see Luk 8:42-49. Christ readily agreed, and went with him, Mar 5:24.
II. Here is another, that comes clandestinely to steal a cure (if I may so say) for herself; and she got the relief she came for. This cure was wrought by the way, as he was going to raise the ruler's daughter, and was followed by a crowd. See how Christ improved his time, and lost none of the precious moments of it. Many of his discourses, and some of his miracles, are dates by the way-side; we should be doing good, not only when we sit in the house, but when we walk by the way, Deu 6:7. Now observe,
1. The piteous case of this poor woman. She had a constant issue of blood upon her, for twelve years, which had thrown her, no doubt, into great weakness, had embittered the comfort of her life, and threatened to be her death in a little time. She had had the best advice of physicians, that she could get, and had made use of the many medicines and methods they prescribed: as long as she had any thing to give them, they had kept her in hopes that they could cure her; but now that she had spent all she had among them, they gave her up as incurable. See here, (1.) That skin for skin, and all that a man has, will be give for life and health; she spent all she had upon physicians. (2.) It is ill with those patients whose physicians are their worst disease; who suffer by their physicians, instead of being relieved by them. (3.) Those that are not bettered by medicines, commonly grow worse, and the disease gets the more ground. (4.) It is usual with people not to apply themselves to Christ, till they have tried in vain all other helpers, and find them, as certainly they will, physicians of no value. And he will be found a sure refuge, even to those who make him their last refuge.
2. The strong faith that she had in the power of Christ to heal her; she said within herself, though it doth not appear that she was encouraged by any preceding instance to say it, If I may but touch his clothes, I shall be whole, Mar 5:28. She believed that he cured, not as a prophet, by virtue derived from God, but as the Son of God, by a virtue inherent in himself. Her case was such as she could not in modesty tell him publicly, as others did their grievances, and therefore a private cure was what she wished for, and her faith was suited to her case.
3. The wonderful effect produced by it; She came in the crowd behind him, and with much ado got to touch his garment, and immediately she felt the cure wrought, Mar 5:29. The flux of blood was dried up, and she felt herself perfectly well all over her, as well as ever she was in her life, in an instant; by this it appears that the cure was altogether miraculous; for those that in such cases are cured by natural means, recover their strength slowly and gradually, and not per saltum - all at once; but as for God, his work is perfect. Note, Those whom Christ heals of the disease of sin, that bloody issue, cannot but experience in themselves a universal change for the better.
4. Christ's enquiry after his concealed patient, and the encouragement he gave her, upon the discovery of her; Christ knew in himself that virtue had gone out of him, Mar 5:30. He knew it not by any deficiency of spirits, through the exhausting of this virtue, but rather by an agility of spirits, in the exerting of it, and the innate and inseparable pleasure he had in doing good. And being desirous to see his patient, he asked, not in displeasure, as one affronted, but in tenderness, as one concerned, Who touched my clothes? The disciples, not without a show of rudeness and indecency, almost ridiculed his question (Mar 5:31); The multitudes throng thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? As if it had been an improper question. Christ passed by the affront, and looks around to see her that had done this thing; not that he might blame her for her presumption, but that he might commend and encourage her faith, and by his own act and deed might warrant and confirm the cure, and ratify to her that which she had surreptitiously obtained. He needed not that any should inform him, for he had presently his eye upon her. Note, As secret acts of sin, so secret acts of faith, are known to the Lord Jesus, and are under his eye. If believers derive virtue from Christ ever so closely, he knows it, and is pleased with it. The poor woman, hereupon, presented herself to the Lord Jesus (Mar 5:33), fearing and trembling, not knowing how he would take it. Note, Christ's patients are often trembling, when they have reason to be triumphing. She might have come boldly, knowing what was done in her; yet, knowing that, she fears and trembles. It was a surprise, and was not yet, as it should have been, a pleasing surprise. However, she fell down before him. Note, There is nothing better for those that fear and tremble, than to throw themselves at the feet of the Lord Jesus; to humble themselves before him, and refer themselves to him. And she told him all the truth. Note, We must not be ashamed to own the secret transactions between Christ and our souls; but, when called to it, mention, to his praise, and the encouragement of others, what he has done for our souls, and the experience we have had of healing virtue derived from him. And the consideration of this, that nothing can be hid from Christ, should engage us to confess all to him. See what an encouraging word he gave her (Mar 5:34); Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole. Note, Christ puts honour upon faith, because faith gives honour to Christ. But see how what is done by faith on earth is ratified in heaven; Christ saith, Be whole of thy disease. Note, If our faith sets the seal of its amen to the power and promise of God, saying, "So it is, and so let it be to me;" God's grace will set the seal of its amen to the prayers and hopes of faith, saying, "So be it, and so it shall be, to thee." And therefore, "Go in peace; be well satisfied that thy cure is honestly come by, is effectually wrought, and take the comfort of it." Note, They that by faith are healed of their spiritual diseases, have reason to go in peace.
Diseases and deaths came into the world by the sin and disobedience of the first Adam; but by the grace of the second Adam both are conquered. Christ, having healed an incurable disease, here goes on to triumph over death, as in the beginning of the chapter he had triumphed over an outrageous devil.
I. The melancholy news is brought to Jairus, that his daughter is dead, and therefore, if Christ be as other physicians, he comes too late. While there is life, there is hope, and room for the use of means; but when life is gone, it is past recall; Why troublest thou the Master any further? Mar 5:35. Ordinarily, the proper thought in this case, is, "The matter is determined, the will of God is done, and I submit, I acquiesce; The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, Who can tell but God will yet be gracious to me, and the child shall live? But now that it is dead, wherefore should I weep? I shall go to it, but it shall not return to me." With such words we should quiet ourselves at such a time, that our souls may be as a child that is weaned from his mother: but there the case was extraordinary; the death of the child doth not, as usually, put an end to the narrative.
II. Christ encourageth the afflicted father yet to hope that his application to Christ on the behalf of his child should not be in vain. Christ had staid to work a cure by the way, but he shall be no sufferer by that, nor loser by the gain of others; Be not afraid, only believe. We may suppose Jairus at a pause, whether he should ask Christ to go on or no; but have we not as much occasion for the grace of God, and his consolations, and consequently of the prayers of our ministers and Christian friends, when death is in the house, as when sickness is? Christ therefore soon determines this matter; "Be not afraid that my coming will be to no purpose, only believe that I will make it turn to a good account." Note, 1. We must not despair concerning our relations that are dead, nor sorrow for them as those that have no hope. See what is said to Rachel, who refused to be comforted concerning her children, upon the presumption that they were not; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears; for there is hope in thine end, that thy children shall come again, Jer 31:16, Jer 31:17. Therefore fear not, faint not. 2. Faith is the only remedy against disquieting grief and fear at such a time: let that silence them, Only believe. Keep up a confidence in Christ, and a dependence upon him, and he will do what is for the best. Believe the resurrection, and then be not afraid.
III. He went with a select company to the house where the dead child was. He had, by the crowd that attended him, given advantage to the poor woman he last healed, and, having done that, now he shook off the crowd, and suffered no man to follow him (to follow with him, so the word is), but his three bosom-disciples, Peter, and James, and John; a competent number to be witnesses of the miracle, but not such a number as that his taking them with him might look like vainglory.
IV. He raised the dead child to life; the circumstances of the narrative here are much the same as we had them in Matthew; only here we may observe,
1. That the child was extremely well beloved, for the relations and neighbours wept and wailed greatly. It is very afflictive when that which is come forth like a flower is so soon cut down, and withereth before it is grown up; when that grieves us, of which we said, This same shall comfort us.
2. That it was evident beyond dispute, that the child was really and truly dead. Their laughing Christ to scorn, for saying, She is not dead, but sleepeth, though highly reprehensible, serves for the proof of this.
3. That Christ put those out as unworthy to be witnesses of the miracle, who were noisy in their sorrow, and were so ignorant in the things of God, as not to understand him when he spoke of death as a sleep, or so scornful, as to ridicule him for it.
4. That he took the parents of the child to be witnesses of the miracle, because in it he had an eye to their faith, and designed it for their comfort, who were the true, for they were the silent mourners.
5. That Christ raised the child to life by a word of power, which is recorded here, and recorded in Syriac, the language in which Christ spoke, for the greater certainty of the thing; Talitha, cumi; Damsel, I say unto thee, Arise. Dr. Lightfoot saith, It was customary with the Jews, when they gave physic to one that was sick, to say, Arise from thy disease; meaning, We wish thou mayest arise: but to one that was dead, Christ said, Arise from the dead; meaning, I command that thou arise; nay, there is more in it - the dead have not power to arise, therefore power goes along with this word, to make it effectual. Da quod jubes, et jube quod vis - Give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt. Christ works while he commands, and works by the command, and therefore may command what he pleaseth, even the dead to arise. Such is the gospel call to those that are by nature dead in trespasses and sins, and can no more rise from that death by their own power, than this child could; and yet that word, Awake, and arise from the dead, is neither vain, nor in vain, when it follows immediately, Christ shall give thee light, Eph 5:14. It is by the word of Christ that spiritual life is given, I said unto thee, Live, Eze 16:6.
6. That the damsel, as soon as life returned, arose, and walked, Mar 5:42. Spiritual life will appear by our rising from the bed of sloth and carelessness, and our walking in a religious conversation, our walking up and down in Christ's name and strength; even from those that are of the age of twelve years, it may be expected that they should walk as those whom Christ has raised to life, otherwise than in the native vanity of their minds.
7. That all who saw it, and heard of it, admired the miracle, and him that wrought it; They were astonished with a great astonishment. They could not but acknowledge that there was something in it extraordinary and very great, and yet they knew not what to make of it, or to infer from it. Their wonder should have worked forward to a lively faith, but it rested in a stupor or astonishment.
8. That Christ endeavoured to conceal it; He charged them straitly, that no man should know it. It was sufficiently known to a competent number, but he would not have it as yet proclaimed any further; because his own resurrection was to be the great instance of his power over death, and therefore the divulging of other instances must be reserved till that great proof was given: let one part of the evidence be kept private, till the other part, on which the main stress lies, be made ready.
9. That Christ took care something should be given her to eat. By this it appeared that she was raised not only to life, but to a good state of health, that she had an appetite to her meat; even the new-born babes in Christ's house desire the sincere milk, Pe1 2:1, Pe1 2:2. And it is observable, that, as Christ, when at first he had made man, presently provided food for him, and food out of the earth of which he was made (Gen 1:29), so now when he had given a new life, he took care that something should be given to eat; for is he has given life, he may be trusted to give livelihood, because the life is more than meat, Mat 6:25. Where Christ hath given spiritual life, he will provide food for the support and nourishment of it unto life eternal, for he will never forsake, or be wanting to, the work of his own hands.