Sick people - Τους, κακως εχοντας, those who felt ill - were afflicted with any species of malady.
And torments - βασανοις, from βασανιζω, to examine by torture, such as cholics, gouts, and rheumatisms, which racked every joint.
Possessed with devils - Daemoniacs. Persons possessed by evil spirits. This is certainly the plain obvious meaning of daemoniac in the Gospels.
Many eminent men think that the sacred writers accommodated themselves to the unfounded prejudices of the common people, in attributing certain diseases to the influence of evil spirits, which were merely the effects of natural causes: but that this explanation can never comport with the accounts given of these persons shall be proved as the places occur.
Our common version, which renders the word, those possessed by devils, is not strictly correct; as the word devil, διαβολος, is not found in the plural in any part of the Sacred Writings, when speaking of evil spirits: for though there are multitudes of daemons, Mark 5:9, yet it appears there is but one Devil, who seems to be supreme, or head, over all the rest. Διαβολος signifies an accuser or slanderer, 1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:3; Titus 2:3. Perhaps Satan was called so,
The word comes from δια, through, and βαλλειν, to cast, or shoot, because of the influence of his evil suggestions; compared, Ephesians 6:16, to fiery darts; and thus it is nearly of the same meaning with ο πειραζων, he who pierces through. See on Matthew 4:3; (note).
Lunatic - Persons afflicted with epileptic or other disorders, which are always known to have a singular increase at the change and full of the moon. This undoubtedly proceeds from the superadded attractive influence of the sun and moon upon the earth's atmosphere, as, in the periods mentioned above, these two luminaries are both in conjunction; and their united attractive power being exerted on the earth at the same time, not only causes the flux and reflux of the ocean, but occasions a variety of important changes in the bodies of infirm persons, of animals in general, but more particularly in those who are more sensible of these variations. And is this any wonder, when it is well known, that a very slight alteration in the atmosphere causes the most uncomfortable sensations to a number of invalids! But sometimes even these diseases were caused by demons. See on Matthew 8:16, Matthew 8:34; (note), and Matthew 17:15; (note).
Palsy - Palsy is defined, a sudden loss of tone and vital power in a certain part of the human body. This may affect a limb, the whole side, the tongue, or the whole body. This disorder is in general incurable, except by the miraculous power of God, unless in its slighter stages.
He healed them - Either with a word or a touch; and thus proved that all nature was under his control.
And his fame went throughout all Syria - It is not easy to fix the exact bounds of Syria in the time of our Saviour. It was, perhaps, the general name for the country lying between the Euphrates on the east, and the Mediterranean on the west; and between Mount Taurus on the north, and Arabia on the south. Through all this region his celebrity was spread by his power of working miracles; and, as might be expected, the sick from every quarter were brought to him, in the hope that he would give relief.
Those possessed with devils - Much difficulty exists, and much has been written respecting those in the New Testament said to be possessed with the devil. It has been maintained by many that the sacred writers only meant by this expression to denote those who were melancholy or epileptic, or afflicted with some other grievous disease. This opinion has been supported by arguments too long to be repeated here. On the other hand, it has been supposed that the persons so described were under the influence of evil spirits, who had complete possession of the faculties, and who produced many symptoms of disease not unlike melancholy, madness, and epilepsy. That such was the fact will appear from the following considerations:
1.Christ and the apostles spoke to them and of them as such; they addressed them, and managed them, precisely as if they were so possessed, leaving their hearers to infer beyond a doubt that such was their real opinion.
2.Those who were thus possessed spake, conversed, asked questions, gave answers, and expressed their knowledge of Christ, and their fear of him things that certainly could not be said of diseases, Matthew 8:28; Luke 8:27.
6.The early fathers of the Church interpreted these passages in the same way. They derived their opinions probably from the apostles themselves, and their opinions are a fair interpretation of the apostles‘ sentiments.
7.If it is denied that Christ believed in such possessions, it does not appear why any other clearly-expressed sentiment of his may not in the same way be disputed. There is, perhaps, no subject on which he expressed himself more clearly, or acted more uniformly, or which he left more clearly impressed on the minds of his disciples.
Nor is there any absurdity in the opinion that those persons were really under the influence of devils. For:
1.It is no more absurd to suppose that an angel, or many angels, should have fallen and become wicked than that so many people should.
2.It is no more absurd that Satan should have possession of the human faculties, or inflict diseases, than that people should do it a thing which is done every day. What is more common than for a wicked man to corrupt the morals of others, or, by inducing them to become intemperate, to produce a state of body and mind quite as bad as to be possessed with the devil?
3.We still see a multitude of cases that no man can prove not to be produced by the presence of an evil spirit. Who would attempt to say that some evil being may not have much to do in the case of madmen?
4.It afforded an opportunity for Christ to show his power over the enemies of himself and of man, and thus to evince himself qualified to meet every enemy of the race, and triumphantly to redeem his people. He came to destroy the power of Satan, Acts 26:18; Romans 16:20-21.
Those which were lunatic - This name is given to the disease from the Latin name of the moon (Luna). It has the same origin in Greek. It was given because it was formerly imagined that the patient was affected by the increase or the decrease of the moon. The name is still retained, although it is certain that the moon has no effect on the disease. The disease is mentioned only in this place, and in Matthew 17:15. It was probably the falling-sickness or epilepsy, the same as the disease mentioned Mark 9:18-20; Luke 9:39-40.
And those that had the palsy - Many infirmities were included under the general name of palsy in the New Testament.
1.The paralytic shock, affecting the whole body.
2.The hemiplegy, affecting only one side of the body; the most frequent form of the disease.
3.The paraplegy, affecting all the system below the neck.
4.The catalepsy. This is caused by a contraction of the muscles in the whole or a part of the body, and is very dangerous. The effects are very violent and fatal. For instance, if, when a person is struck, he happens to have his hand extended, he is unable to draw it back; if not extended, he is unable to stretch it out. It gradually becomes diminished in size, and dried up in appearance. Hence, it was called the withered hand, Matthew 12:10-13.
5.The cramp. This, in Eastern countries, is a fearful malady, and by no means unfrequent. It originates from chills in the night. The limbs, when seized by it, remain unmovable, and the person afflicted with it resembles one undergoing a torture. This was probably the disease of the servant of the centurion, Matthew 8:6; Luke 7:2. Death follows from this disease in a few days.
And he healed them - This was done evidently by miraculous power. A miracle is an effect produced by divine power above, or opposed to, what are regular effects of the laws of nature. It is not a violation of the laws of nature, but is a suspension of their usual operation, for some important purpose. For instance, the regular effect of death is that the body returns to corruption. The ordinary laws of chemistry had been suspended by the operation of life - a power superior to those laws, and producing new combinations of matter in the animal or vegetable organization. When life is extinct those laws act in their proper power, and the body is decomposed; that is, the materials of which it is composed, under chemical laws, return to their natural forms of gases and earths. When one who claims to be from God suspends that regular effect, and gives life to a dead body for some important purpose, it is a miracle. Such an effect is clearly the result of divine power. No other being but God can do it. When, therefore, Christ and the apostles exercised this power, it was clear evidence that God approved of their doctrines; that he had commissioned them; and that they were authorized to declare his will. He would not give this attestation to a false doctrine. Most or all of these diseases were incurable. When Christ cured them by a word, it was the clearest of all proofs that he was sent from heaven. This is one of the strong arguments for Christianity.
[Medical Missionary Work (1893).]
I am intensely interested in the education of medical students as missionaries. This is the very means of introducing the truth where otherwise it would not find an entrance. CH 535.1Read in context »
The wretched condition of the world at the present time has been presented before me. Since Adam's fall the race has been degenerating. Some of the reasons for the present deplorable condition of men and women, formed in the image of God, were shown me. And a sense of how much must be done to arrest, even in a degree, the physical, mental, and moral decay, caused my heart to be sick and faint. God did not create the race in its present feeble condition. This state of things is not the work of Providence, but the work of man; it has been brought about by wrong habits and abuses, by violating the laws that God has made to govern man's existence. Through the temptation to indulge appetite, Adam and Eve first fell from their high, holy, and happy estate. And it is through the same temptation that the race have become enfeebled. They have permitted appetite and passion to take the throne, and to bring into subjection reason and intellect. 3T 139.1
The violation of physical law, and the consequence, human suffering, have so long prevailed that men and women look upon the present state of sickness, suffering, debility, and premature death as the appointed lot of humanity. Man came from the hand of his Creator perfect and beautiful in form, and so filled with vital force that it was more than a thousand years before his corrupt appetite and passions, and general violations of physical law, were sensibly felt upon the race. More recent generations have felt the pressure of infirmity and disease still more rapidly and heavily with every generation. The vital forces have been greatly weakened by the indulgence of appetite and lustful passion. 3T 139.2
The patriarchs from Adam to Noah, with but few exceptions, lived nearly a thousand years. Since the days of Noah the length of life has been tapering. Those suffering with disease were brought to Christ from every city, town, and village for Him to heal; for they were afflicted with all manner of diseases. And disease has been steadily on the increase through successive generations since that period. Because of the continued violation of the laws of life, mortality has increased to a fearful extent. The years of man have been shortened, so that the present generation pass to the grave, even before the age at which the generations that lived the first few thousand years after the creation came upon the stage of action. 3T 139.3Read in context »