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He sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And He charged them that they should tell no man: but the more He charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; and were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.
Miracles of healing were often wrought in old time by the prophet or man of God laying his hand on the sufferer. Naaman the Syrian expected that Elisha would heal his leprosy in this way. And so the friends of this man brought him to our Lord with a request that He would put His hand upon him. But the Lord did not heal him in that way. The Good Physician knew best how to deal with each case that was brought before Him. It seems that neither this man nor his friends had lively faith, and our Lord desired to strengthen what there was by the use of outward signs. First, He took the man away from the crowd, that he might learn to listen to Him alone and in silence. The man did not speak plainly, because he could not hear; so the Lord Jesus put His fingers in his ears as if to open them. Then He unloosed the stammering tongue by touching it with moisture from His own mouth. He looked up to Heaven, to shew that it is from our Father in Heaven that help cometh. He sighed, or groaned for sorrow at the miseries which sin had brought on
He said to the closed ears and parched mouth, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And behold! the ears were opened, and the string of
1 2 Kings, v. 11.
MIRACULOUS FEEDING OF FOUR THOUSAND. 63
the tongue was loosed, and the man spake plain. Thus were the words of Isaiah fulfilled : The ears of the deaf shall be unstopped;"and "The tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly.'?
We are too much in the condition of this man before he was brought to Jesus. Our ears are often deaf to the voice of God's Holy Spirit; our mouths are dumb to speak His praises. At best we utter then with stammering lips. There is great need therefore for us to say at the beginning of our prayers
O Lord, open Thou our lips.
XXV.-THE MIRACULOUS FEEDING OF
WHEN our Lord returned from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon to the shores of the Sea of Galilee, He came to nearly the same place where a few weeks before He had multiplied the loaves and fishes, and fed the multitudes. Again a great company came to Him; again He had compassion on them, and satisfied them with bread in the wilderness. St. Matthew relates this second miracle in chapter xv. 32–38. St. Mark, in chapter viii. 1-9.
Then Jesus called His disciples unto Him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with Me now three days, and have ' Isaiah, xxxv. 5.
Isaiah, xxxii. 4.
nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. And His disciples say unto Him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude? And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes. And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled : and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full. And they that did eat were four thousand
beside women and children.
This history is like that of the first miracle of the loaves, but with some differences. Then, the people sat upon the green grass, for it was early spring. Now, the sun had risen with a burning heat, and had withered the grass, as it does in summer in those Eastern lands :-the people sat upon the ground. Then, there were five loaves and two fishes, and five thousand men ate of them. Now, there were seven loaves and a few small fishes, and four thousand men were fed. Then twelve baskets full of fragments were taken up, as though each Apostle filled a basket with pieces. Now there were seven basketfuls, each loaf yielding a basket of fragments. The baskets, too, were different, a much larger sort being used on this occasion. In the first miracle, the loaves were barley; we are not told that they were so now. In both miracles the people were in a desert place; in both the Lord Jesus pitied them. In both He gave thanks, and brake the bread, and gave it to the people by the hands
of His Apostles. In both, as in a picture, we see the Good Shepherd among His sheep, feeding them upon the mountains of Israel. He gives us the daily bread we need for the life of our bodies; He feeds His own with the True Bread from Heaven, that they may eat thereof and not die.
Hungry souls that faint and languish,
By His bounteous Hand are fed ;
, the living Bread,
Red with Blood on Calvary shed.'
XXVI.-THE OPENING OF A BLIND MAN'S
EYES AT BETHSAIDA.
AFTER feeding the four thousand, our Lord crossed the sea to the coasts of Magdala. There the Pharisees met Him; and after answering their tempting questions, He went on by water to Bethsaida. Bethsaida, the home of St. Andrew and St. Peter, was a fishing village close to Capernaum. Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth, was well known there; and when He went into the place, a blind man was brought Him to be healed. St. Mark alone relates the miracle, in chapter viïi. 22–26.
And He cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto Him, and besought Him to touch Him. And He took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when He had spit on his eyes, and put His hands upon him, He asked him if he saw bught, And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that He put His hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. And He sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.
We know the character of the men of Bethsaida. Christ had wrought many mighty works there, but yet they repented not. Therefore He would not allow them to behold this miracle. • He took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town,' before He began to heal him. And then He restored the man's sight by degrees, letting him see things dimly before he saw them clearly. Why was this? Perhaps the man's faith and that of his friends was weak, and our Lord took this way of healing him, lest they should be startled, and drop back unto unbelief. They were slow to believe, and thus He was slow in healing
It was but natural, too, that a man who had long been blind should not know at first how to use his powers of sight, or how to trust them. Here is an account of a person who had been blind from his birth, but who recovered his sight: • When he first saw, he did not know the shape of anything, nor any one thing from another, however different in shape or size; but when he was told what the things were, whose forms he before knew from feeling, he would carefully observe, that he might know them ayain.'
· St. Matt. xi. 20, 21.