1. And again He entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that He was in the house.
2. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and He preached the word unto them.
3. And they came unto Him, bringing one sick of the palsy, who was carried by four.
4. And when they could not come nigh unto Him for the press, they uncovered the roof where He was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
5. When Jesus saw their faith, He said unto the sick of the palsy, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee."
6. But there were certain of the Scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
7. Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
8. And immediately when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, He said unto them, "Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
9. Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?
10. But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (He saith to the sick of the palsy,) [p. 38]
11. I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house."
12. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, "We never saw it on this fashion."
Bede, in Marc., 1, 10: Because the compassion of God deserts not even carnal persons, He accords to them the grace of His presence, by which even they may be made spiritual. After the desert, the Lord returns into the city.
Wherefore it is said, "And again He entered into Capernaum, &c."
Augustine, de Con. Evan., ii, 25: But Matthew writes this miracle as if it were done in the city of the Lord, whilst Mark places it in Capernaum, which would be more difficult of solution, if Matthew had also named Nazareth. But seeing that Galilee itself might be called the city of the Lord, who can doubt but that the Lord did these things in His own city, since He did them in Capernaum, a city of Galilee; particularly as Capernaum was of such importance in Galilee as to be called its metropolis?
Or else, Matthew passed by the things which were done after He came into His own city, until He came to Capernaum, and so adds on the story of the paralytic healed, subjoining, "And, behold, they presented to Him a man sick of the palsy," after he had said that He came into His own city.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Or else, Matthew called Capernaum His city because He went there frequently, and there did many miracles.
It goes on: "And it was noised that He was in the house, &c."
For the desire of hearing Him was stronger that the toil of approaching Him. After this, they introduce the paralytic, of whom Matthew and Luke speak; wherefore there follows: "And they came unto Him bearing one sick of the palsy, who was carried by four."
Finding the door blocked up by the crowd, they could not by any means enter that way. Those who carried him, however, hoping that he could merit the grace of being healed, raising the bed with their burden, and uncovering the roof, lay him with his bed before the face of the Saviour.
And this is that which is added: "And when they could not [p. 39] lay him before Him, &c."
There follows: "But when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee."
He did not mean the faith of the sick man, but of his bearers; for it sometimes happens that a man is healed by the faith of another.
Bede: It may indeed be seen how much each person's own faith weighs with God, when that of another had such influence that the whole man at once rose up, healed body and soul, and by one man's merit, another should have his sins forgiven him.
Theophylact: He saw the faith of the sick man himself, since he would not have allowed himself to be carried, unless he'd had faith to be healed.
Bede: Moreover, the Lord being about to cure the man of the palsy, first loosed the chains of his sins, in order to shew that he was condemned to the loosening of his joints, because of the bonds of his sins, and could not be healed to the recovery of his limbs, unless these were first loosened.
But Christ's wonderful humility calls this man, despised, weak, with all the joints of his limbs unstrung, a son, when the priests did not deign to touch him. Or at least, He therefore calls him a son because his sins are forgiven him.
It goes on: "But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man speak blasphemies?"
Cyril [ed. note: Nicolai observes on this passage, Nihil tale occurrit in Cyrillo, tametsi blasphemiae ideo a Judaeis improperatae Christo meminit in Johannem, Lib. ii, e.3.]: Now they accuse Him of blasphemy, anticipating the sentence of His death: for there was a command in the Law, that whosoever blasphemed should be put to death. And this charge they laid upon Him, because He claimed for Himself the divine power of remitting sins.
Wherefore it is added, "Who can forgive sin, save God only?" For the Judge of all alone has power to forgive sin.
Bede: Who remits sin by those also to whom He has assigned the power of remitting, and therefore Christ is proved to be very God, for He is able to remit sins as God.
The Jews then are in error, who although they hold the Christ both to be God, and to be able to remit sins, do not however believe that Jesus is the Christ.
But the Arians err much more madly, who [p. 40] although overwhelmed with the words of the Evangelist, so that they cannot deny that Jesus is the Christ, and can remit sin, nevertheless fear not to deny that He is God.
But He Himself, desiring to shame the traitors both by His knowledge of things hidden and by the virtue of His works, manifests Himself to be God.
For there follows: "And immediately when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they so reasoned, He said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?"
In which He shews Himself to be God, since He can know the hidden things of the heart; and in a manner though silent He speaks thus, With the same power and majesty, by which I look upon your thoughts, I can forgive the sins of men.
Theophylact: But though their thoughts were laid bare, still they remain insensible, refusing to believe that He who knew their hearts could forgive sins, wherefore the Lord proves to them the cure of the soul by that of the body, shewing the invisible by the visible, that which is more difficult by that which is easier, although they did not look upon it as such.
For the Pharisees thought it more difficult to heal the body, as being more open to view; but the soul more easy to cure, because the cure is invisible; so that they reasoned thus, Lo, He does not now cure the body, but heals the unseen soul; if He'd had more power, He would at once have cured the body, and not have fled for refuge to the unseen world.
The Saviour, therefore, shewing that He can do both, says, "Which is easier?" as if He said, I indeed by the healing of the body, which is in reality more easy, but appears to you more difficult, will prove to you the health of the soul, which is really more difficult.
Psuedo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: And because it is easier to say than to do, there was still manifestly something to say in opposition, for the work was not yet manifested.
Wherefore He subjoins, "But that ye may know, &c." as if He said, Since ye doubt My word, I will bring on a work which will confirm what was unseen.
But He says in a marked manner, "On earth to forgive sins," that He might shew that He has joined the power of the divinity to the human nature by an inseparable union, because although He was made man, yet He remained the Word of God; and although by an economy He conversed on the earth with men, nevertheless He was not prevented from working [p. 41] miracles and from giving remission of sins.
For His human nature did not in any thing take away from these things which essentially belonged to His Divinity, nor the Divinity hinder the Word of God from becoming on earth, according to the flesh, the Son of Man without change and in truth.
Theophylact: Again, He says, "Take up thy bed," to prove the greater certainty of the miracle, shewing that it is not a mere illusion; and at the same time to shew that He not only healed, but gave strength; thus He not only turns away souls from sin, but gives them the power of working out the commandments.
Bede: A carnal sign therefore is given, that the spiritual sign may be proved, although it belongs to the same power to do away with the distempers of both soul and body.
Whence it follows: "And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all."
Chrys.: Further, He first healed by the remission of sins that which He had come to seek, that is, a soul, so that when they faithlessly doubted, then He might bring forward a work before them, and in this way His word might be confirmed by the work, and a hidden sign be proved by an open one, that is, the health of the soul by the healing of the body.
Bede: We are also informed, that many sicknesses of body arise from sins, and therefore perhaps sins are first remitted, that the causes of sickness being taken away, health may be restored. For men are afflicted by fleshly troubles for five causes, in order to increase their merits, as Job and the Martyrs; or to preserve their lowliness, as Paul by the messenger of Satan; or that they may perceive and correct their sins, as Miriam, the sister of Moses, and this paralytic; or for the glory of God, as the man born blind and Lazarus; or as the beginnings of the pains of damnation, as Herod and Antiochus.
But wonderful is the virtue of the Divine power, where without the least interval of time, by the command of the Saviour, a speedy health accompanies His words.
Wherefore there follows: "Insomuch that they were all amazed." Leaving the greater thing, that is, the remission of sins, they only wonder at that which is apparent, that is, the health of the body.
Theophylact: This is not however the paralytic, whose cure [p. 42] is related by John, [John 5] for he had no man with him, this one had four; he is cured in the pool of the sheep market, but this one in a house. It is the same man, however, whose cure is related by Matthew [Matt. 9] and Mark.
But mystically, Christ is still in Capernaum, in the house of consolation.
Bede: Moreover, whilst the Lord is preaching in the house, there is not room for them, not even at the door, because whilst Christ is preaching in Judaea, the Gentiles are not yet able to enter to hear Him, to whom, however, though placed without, he directed the words of His doctrine by His preachers.
Pseudo-Jerome: Again, the palsy is a type of the torpor, in which man lies slothful in the softness of the flesh, though desiring health.
Theophlyact: If therefore I, having the powers of my mind unstrung, remain, whenever I attempt any thing good without strength, as a palsied man, and if I be raised on high by the four Evangelists, and be brought to Christ, and there hear myself called son, then also are my sins quitted by me; for a man is called the son of God because he works the commandments.
Bede: Or else, because there are four virtues, by which a man is through an assured heart exalted so that he merits safety; which virtues some call prudence, fortitude, temperance and justice. Again, they desire to bring the palsied man to Christ, but they are impeded on every side by the crowd which is between them, because often the soul desires to be renewed by the medicine of Divine grace, but through the sluggishness of the grovelling body is held back by the hindrance of old custom. Oftentimes amidst the very sweetness of secret prayer, and, as it may be called, the pleasant converse with God, a crowd of thoughts, cutting off the clear vision of the mind, shuts out Christ from its sight.
Let us not then remain in the lowest ground, where the crowds are bustling, but aim at the roof of the house, that is, the sublimity of the Holy Scripture, and meditate on the law of the Lord.
Theophylact: But how should I be borne to Christ, if the roof be not opened. For the roof is the intellect, which is set above all those things which are within us; here it has much earth about it in the tiles which are made of clay, I mean, earthly things: but if these be taken away, the virtue of the intellect within [p. 43] us is freed from its load. After this let it be let down, that is, humbled. For it does not teach us to be puffed up, because our intellect has its load cleared away, but to be humbled still more.
Bede: Or else, the sick man is let down after the roof is opened, because, when the Scriptures are laid open to us we arrive at the knowledge of Christ, that is, we descend to His lowliness, by the dutifulness of faith. But by the sick man being let down with his bed, it is meant that Christ should be known by man, whilst yet in the flesh.
But by rising from the bed is meant the soul's rousing itself from carnal desires, in which it was lying in sickness. To take up the bed is to bridle the flesh itself by the bands of continence, and to separate it from earthly pleasures, through the hope of heavenly rewards.
But to take up the bed and to go home is to return to paradise. Or else the man, now healed, who had been sick carries back home his bed, when the soul, after receiving remission of sins, returns, even though encompassed with the body, to its internal watch over itself.
Theophylact: It is necessary to take up also one's bed, that is the body, to the working of good. For then shall we be able to arrive at contemplation, so that our thoughts should say within us, never have we seen in this way before, that is never understood as we have done since we have been cured of the palsy; for he who is cleansed from sin, sees more purely.
13. And He went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto Him, and He taught them.
14. And as He passed by, He saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, "Follow Me." And he arose and followed Him.
15. And it came to pass, that as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many Publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.
16. And when the Scribes and Pharisees saw Him [p. 44] eat with Publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, "How is it that He eateth and drinketh with Publicans and sinners?"
17. When Jesus heard it, He said unto them, "They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Bede: After that the Lord taught at Capernaum, He went to the sea, that He might not only set in order the life of men in towns, but also might preach the Gospel of the kingdom to those who dwelt near the sea, and might teach them to despise the restless motions of those things which pass away like the waves of the sea, and to overcome them by the firmness of faith.
Wherefore it is said, "And He went forth again to the sea, and all the multitude, &c."
Theophylact: Or else, after the miracle, He goes to the sea, as if wishing to be alone, but the crowd runs to Him again, that thou mightest learn, that the more thou fliest from glory, the more she herself pursues thee; but if thou followest her, she will fly from thee. The Lord passing on from thence called Matthew.
Wherefore there follows, "And as He passed by, He saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting, &c."
Chrys.: Now this is the same publican who is named by all the Evangelists; Matthew by Matthew; simply Levi by Luke; and Levi, the son of Alphaeus, by Mark; for he was the son of Alphaeus. And you may find persons with two names in other parts of Scripture; as Moses' father in law is sometimes called Jethro, sometimes Raguel.
Bede, in Marc., 11: So also the same person is called Levi and Matthew; but Luke and Mark, on account of their reverence and the honour of the Evangelist, are unwilling to put the common name, while Matthew is a just accuser of himself, and calls himself Matthew and publican. He wishes to shew to his hearers that no one who is converted should despair of his salvation, since he himself was suddenly changed from a publican into an Apostle.
but he says that he was sitting at the 'teloneum,' that is, the place where the customs are looked after [p. 45] and administered. For 'telos' in Greek is the same as 'vectigal,' customs, in Latin.
Theophylact: For he sat at the receipt of custom, either, as is often done, exacting from some, or making up accounts, or doing some actions of that sort, which publicans are wont to do in their abodes, yea this man, who was raised on high from this state of life that he might leave all things and follow Christ.
Wherefore it goes on, "And He saith to him, Follow Me, &c."
Bede: Now to follow is to imitate, and therefore in order to imitate the poverty of Christ, in the feeling of his soul even more than in outward condition, he who used to rob his neighbour's wealth, now leaves his own. And not only did he quit the gain of the customs, but he also despised the peril, which might come from the princes of this world, because he left the accounts of the customs imperfect and unsettled. For the Lord Himself, Who externally, by human language, called Him to follow, inflamed him inwardly by divine inspiration to follow Him the moment that He called him.
Pseudo-Jerome: Thus then Levi, which means Appointed, followed from the custom-house of human affairs, the Word, Who says, "He who doth not quit all that he has, cannot be My disciple."
Theophylact: But he who used to plot against others becomes so benevolent, that he invites many persons to eat with him.
Wherefore it goes on: "And it came to pass, that as Jesus sat at meat in his house."
Bede, in Marc. i, 12: The persons here called publicans are those who exact the public customs, or men who farm the customs of the exchequer or of republics; moreover, those also, who follow after the gain of this world by business, are called by the same name. They who had seen that the publican, converted from his sins to better things, had found a place of pardon, even for this reason themselves also do not despair of salvation.
And they come to Jesus, not remaining in their former sins, as the Pharisees and Scribes complain, but in penitence, as the following words of the Evangelist shew, saying, "For there were many who followed Him."
For the Lord went to the feasts of sinners, that He might have an opportunity of teaching them, and might set before His entertainers spiritual meats, which also is carried on in mystical figures. For he who receives Christ into his inward habitation [p. 46] is fed with the highest delights of overflowing pleasures.
Therefore the Lord enters willingly, and takes up His abode in the affection of him who hath believed on Him; and this is the spiritual banquet of good works, which the rich cannot have, and on which the poor feast.
Theophylact: But the Pharisees blame this, making themselves pure.
Whence there follows: "And when the Scribes and Pharisees saw Him eat, &c."
Bede: If by the election of Matthew and calling of the publicans, the faith of the Gentiles is expressed, who formerly were intent on the gains of this world; certainly the haughtiness of the Scribes and Pharisees intimates the envy of the Jewish people, who are vexed at the salvation of the Gentiles.
It goes on: "When Jesus heard it, He saith unto them, They that are whole need not the physician, but they that are sick."
He aims at the Scribes and Pharisees, who, thinking themselves righteous, refused to keep company with sinners. He calls Himself the physician, Who, by a strange mode of healing, was wounded on account of our iniquities, and by His wound we are healed. And He calls those whole and righteous, who, wishing to establish their own righteousness, are not subject to the righteousness of God. Moreover He calls those rich and sinners, who, overcome by the consciousness of their own frailty, and seeing that they cannot be justified by the Law, submit their necks to the grace of Christ by repentance.
Wherefore it is added, "For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners, &c."
Theophylact: Not indeed that they should continue sinners, but be converted to that repentance.
18. And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto Him, "Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?"
19. And Jesus said unto them, "Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.
20. But the days will come, when the bridegroom [p. 47] shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
21. No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse.
22. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles."
Gloss.: As above, the Master was accused to the disciples for keeping company with sinners in their feasts, so now, on the other hand, the disciples are complained of to the Master for their omission of fasts, that so matter for dissension might arise amongst them.
Wherefore it is said, "And the disciples of John and the Pharisees used to fast."
Theophylact: For the disciples of John being in an imperfect state, continued in Jewish customs.
Augustine, de Con. Evan., ii, 27: But it may be thought that He added Pharisees, because they joined with the disciples of John in saying this to the Lord, whilst Matthew relates that the disciples of John alone said it: but the words which follow father shew that those who said it spoke not of themselves, but of others.
For it goes on, "And they came and say unto Him, Why do the disciples, &c."
For these words shew, that the guests who were there came to Jesus, and had said this same thing to the disciples, so that in the words which he uses, "they came," he speaks not of those same persons, of whom he had said, "And the disciples of John and the Pharisees were fasting." But as they were fasting, those persons who remembered it, come to Him. Matthew then says this, "And there came to Him the disciples of John, saying," because the Apostles also were there, and all eagerly, as each could, objected these things.
Chrys.: The disciples of John, therefore, and of the Pharisees, being jealous of Christ, ask Him, whether He alone of all men with His disciples could, without abstinence and toil, conquer in the fight of the passions.
Bede: But John [p. 48] did not drink wine and strong drink, because he who has no power by nature, obtains more merit by abstinence. But why should the Lord, to whom it naturally belonged to forgive sins, shun those whom he could make more pure, than those who fast? But Christ also fasted, lest He should break the precept, "He ate with sinners," that thou mightest see His grace, and acknowledge His power.
It goes on; "And Jesus said unto them, Can the children, &c."
Augustine: Mark here calls them children of the nuptials, whom Matthew calls children of the bridegroom; for we understand the children of the nuptials to be not only those of the bridegroom, but also of the bride.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He then calls Himself a bridegroom, as if about to be betrothed to the Church. For the betrothal is giving an earnest, namely, that the grace of the Holy Ghost, by which the world believed.
Theophylact: He also calls Himself a bridegroom, not only as betrothing to Himself virgin minds, but because the time of His first coming is not a time of sorrow, nor of sadness to believers, neither does it bring with it toil, but rest.
For it is without any works of the law, giving rest by baptism, by which we easily obtain salvation without toil. But the sons of the nuptials or of the Bridegroom are the Apostles; because they, by the grace of God, are made worthy of every heavenly blessing, by the grace of God, and partakers of every joy.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: But intercourse with Him, He says, is far removed from all sorrow, when He adds, "As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast." He is said, from whom some good is far removed; but he who has it present with him rejoices, and is not sad. But that He might destroy their elation of heart, and shew that He intended not His own disciples to be licentious, He adds, "But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken, &c." as if He said, The time will come, when they will shew their firmness; for when the Bridegroom shall be taken from them, they will fast as longing for His coming, and in order to unite to Him their spirits, cleansed by bodily suffering.
He shews also that there is no necessity for His disciples to fast, as having present with them the Bridegroom of human nature, Who every where executes the words of God, and Who gives the seed [p. 49] of life.
The sons of the Bridegroom also cannot, because they are infants, be entirely conformed to their Father, the Bridegroom, Who, considering their infancy, deigns to allow them not to fast: but when the Bridegroom is gone, they will fast, through desire of Him; when they have been made perfect, they will be united to the Bridegroom in marriage, and will always feast at the king's banquet.
Theophylact: We must also understand that every man whose works are good is the son of the Bridegroom; he has the Bridegroom with him, even Christ, and fasts not, that is, does no works of repentance, because he does not sin: but when the Bridegroom is taken away by the man's falling into sin, then he fasts and is penitent, that he may cure his sin.
Bede: But in a mystical sense, it may thus be expressed; that the disciples of John and the Pharisees fast, because every man who boasts of the works of the law without faith, who follows the traditions of men, and receives the preaching of Christ with his bodily ear, and not by the faith of the heart, keeps aloof from spiritual goods, and wastes away with a fasting soul. But he who is incorporated into the members of Christ by a faithful love cannot fast, because he feasts upon His Body and Blood.
It goes on, "No one seweth a piece of" rough, that is, "new, cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filleth it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse."
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: As if He said, because these are preachers of the New Testament, it is not possible that they should serve old laws; but ye who follow old customs, fitly observe the fasts of Moses. But for these, who are about to hand down to men new and wonderful observances, it is not necessary to observe the old traditions, but to be virtuous in mind; some time or other however they will observe fasting with other virtues. But this fasting is different from the fasting of the law, for that was one of restraint, this of goodwill; on account of the fervour of the Spirit, Whom they cannot yet receive.
Wherefore it goes on, "And no one putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put in new bottles."
Bede: For He compares His disciples to old bottles, who would burst at spiritual precepts, rather than be held in [p. 50] restraint by them. But they will be new bottles, when after the ascension of the Lord, they are renewed by desiring His consolation, and then new wine will come to the new bottles, that is, the fervour of the Holy Ghost will fill the hearts of spiritual men. A teacher must also take heed not to commit the hidden things of the new mysteries to a soul, hardened in old wickedness.
Theophylact: Or else the disciples are likened to old garments on account of the infirmity of their minds, on which it was not fitting to impose the heavy command of fasting.
Bede: Neither was it fitting to sew on a new piece; that is, a portion of doctrine which teaches a general fast from all the joy of temporal delights; for if this be done, the teaching is rent, and agrees not with the old part. But by a new garment is intended good works, which are done externally, and by the new wine, is expressed the fervour of faith, hope, and charity, by which we are reformed in our minds.
23. And it came to pass, that He went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and His disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.
24. And the Pharisees said unto Him, "Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?"
25. And He said unto them, "Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?
26. How he went into the house of God, in the days of Abiathar the High Priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?"
27. And He said unto them, "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
28. Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath."
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: The disciples of Christ, freed from the figure, and united to the truth, do not keep the figurative feast of the sabbath.
Wherefore it is said, "And it came to pass, [p. 51] that He went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and His disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn."
Bede, in Marc., 1, 13: We read also in the following part, that they who came and went away were many, and that they had not time enough to take their food, wherefore, according to man's nature, they were hungry.
Chrys., see Hom. in Matt., 39: But being hungry, they ate simple food, not for pleasure, but on account of the necessity of nature. The Pharisees however, serving the figure and the shadow, accused the disciples of doing wrong.
Wherefore there follows, "But the Pharisees said unto Him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful."
Augustine, de Op. Monach., 23: For it was a precept in Israel, delivered by a written law, that no one should detain a thief found in his fields, unless he tried to take something away with him. For the man who had touched nothing else but what he had eaten they were commanded to allow to go away free and unpunished. Wherefore the Jews accused our Lord's disciples, who were plucking the ears of corn, of breaking the sabbath, rather than of theft.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: But our Lord brings forward David, to whom it once happened to eat though it was forbidden by the law, when he touched the Priest's food, that by his example, He might do away with their accusation of the disciples.
For there follows, "Have ye never read, &c."
Theophylact: For David, when flying from the face of Saul [1 Sam 21] went to the Chief Priest, and ate the shew-bread, and took away the sword of Goliath, which things had been offered to the Lord. But a question has been raised how the Evangelist called Abiathar at this time High Priest, when the Book of Kings calls him Abimelech.
Bede: There is, however, no discrepancy, for both were there, when David came to ask for bread, and received it: that is to say, Abimelech, the High Priest, and Abiathar his son; but Abimelech having been slain by Saul, Abiathar fled to David, and became the companion of all his exile afterwards. When he came to the throne, he himself also received the rank of High Priest, and the son became of much greater excellence than the father, and therefore was worthy to be mentioned as the High Priest, [p. 52] even during his father's life-time.
It goes on: "And He said to them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath."
For greater is the care to be taken of the health and life of a man, than the keeping of the sabbath. Therefore the sabbath was ordered to be observed in such a way, that, if there were a neccesity, he should not be guilty, who broke the sabbath-day; therefore it was not forbidden to circumcise on the sabbath, because that was a necessary work. And the Maccabees, when necessity pressed on them, fought on the sabbath-day.
Wherefore, His disciples being hungry, what was not allowed in the law became lawful through their necessity of hunger; as now, if a sick man break a fast, he is not held guilty in any way.
It goes on: "Therefore the Son of man is Lord, &c." As if He said, David the king is to be excused for feeding on the food of the Priests, how much more the Son of man, the true King and Priest, and Lord of the sabbath, is free from fault, for pulling ears of corn on the sabbath-day.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He calls himself properly, Lord of the sabbath, and Son of man, since being the Son of God, He deigned to be called Son of man, for the sake of men. Now the law has no authority over the Lawgiver and Lord, for more is allowed the king, than is appointed by the law. The law is given to the weak indeed, but not to the perfect and to those who work above what the law enjoins.
Bede: But in a mystical sense the disciples pass through the corn fields, when the holy doctors look with the care of a pious solicitude upon those whom they have initiated in the faith, and who, it is implied, are hungering for the best of all things, the salvation of men.
But to pluck the ears of corn means to snatch men away from the eager desire of earthly things. And to rub with the hands is by example of virtue to put from the purity of their minds the concupiscence of the flesh, as men do husks. To eat the grains is when a man, cleansed from the filth of vice by the mouths of preachers, is incorporated amongst the members of the Church.
Again, fitly are the disciples related to have done this, walking before the face of the Lord, for it is necessary that the discourse of the doctor should come first, although the grace of visitation from on high, following it, must enlighten the heart of the hearer. As well, on the sabbath-day, for the doctors themselves in [p. 53] preaching labour for the hope of future rest, and teach their hearers to toil over their tasks for the sake of eternal repose.
Theophylact: Or else, because when they have rest from their passions, then are they made doctors to lead others to virtue, plucking away from them earthly things.
Bede: Again, they walk through the corn fields with the Lord, who rejoice in meditating upon His sacred words. They hunger, when they desire to find in them the bread of life; and they hunger on sabbath days, as soon as their minds are in a soothing rest, and they rejoice in freedom from troubled thoughts; they pluck the ears of corn, and by rubbing, cleanse them, till they come to what is fit to eat, when by meditation they take to themselves the witness of the Scriptures, to which they arrive by reading, and discuss them continually, until they find in them the marrow of love; this refreshment of the mind is truly unpleasing to fools, but is approved by the Lord.
This document(last modified October 24, 1998) from Believerscafe.com