3.In these lay a great multitude. It is possible that diseased persons lay in the porches to ask alms when the people were passing there who were going into the temple to worship; and there, too, it was customary to purchase the beasts which were to be offered in sacrifice. Yet at each feast God cured a certain number, that, in this way, he might recommend the worship prescribed in the Law and the holiness of the temple. But might it not appear foolish to believe, while we read of nothing of this kind having been done at a time when religion was in the most flourishing condition, and even since in the age of the Prophets miracles were not performed but on extraordinary occasions, that when the affairs of the nation were so decayed and almost ruinous, the power and grace of God were displayed with more than ordinary lustre? I reply, there were, in my opinion, two reasons. As the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the Prophets, was a sufficient witness of the divine presence, religion at that time needed no other confirmation; for the Law had been sanctioned by abundantly sufficient miracles, and God ceased not to express, by innumerable testimonies, his approbation of the worship which he had enjoined. But about the time of Christ’ coming, as they were deprived of the Prophets and their condition was very wretched, and as various temptations pressed upon them on every hand, they needed this extraordinary aid, that they might not think that God had entirely left them, and thus might be discouraged and fall away. For we know that Malachi was the last of the Prophets, and, therefore, he closes his doctrine with this admonition, that the Jews may
remember the Law delivered by Moses, (Mal_4:4,)
until Christ appear. God saw it to be advantageous to deprive them of the Prophets, and to keep them in suspense for a time, that they might be inflamed with a stronger desire for Christ, and might receive him with greater reverence, when he should be manifested to them. Yet, that testimonies might not be wanting to the temple and sacrifices, and to the whole of that worship by which salvation should be made known to the world, the Lord retained among the Jews this gift of healing, that they might know that there was a good reason why God separated them from the other nations. For God, by curing the diseased, showed plainly — as by an arm stretched out from heaven — that he approved of this kind of worship which they derived from the injunction of the Law. Secondly, I have no doubt that God intended to remind them by these signs that the time of redemption was approaching, and that Christ, the Author of salvation, was already at hand, that the minds of all might be the better aroused. I think that signs, in that age, served this twofold purpose; first, that the Jews might know that God was present with them, and thus might remain steady in their obedience to the Law; and, secondly, that they might earnestly hope for a new and unwonted condition.
Of lame, blind, withered. For the purpose of informing us that the diseases cured by our Lord were not of an ordinary kind, the Evangelist enumerates some classes of them; for human remedies could be of no avail to the lame, blind, and withered. It was indeed a mournful spectacle, to see in so large a body of men so many kinds of deformities in the members; but yet the glory of God shone more brightly there than in the sight of the most numerous and best disciplined army. For nothing is more magnificent than when an unwonted power of God corrects and restores the defects of nature; and nothing is more beautiful or more delightful than when, through his boundless goodness, he relieves the distresses of men. For this reason the Lord intended that this should be a splendid theater, in which not only the inhabitants of the country, but strangers also, might perceive and contemplate His majesty; and, as I have already suggested, it was no small ornament and glory of the temple, when God, by stretching out his hand, clearly showed that He was present.