Henry Ware.

The life of the saviour online

. (page 10 of 15)
Online LibraryHenry WareThe life of the saviour → online text (page 10 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


serve, as was often the case, how slow even his
devoted friends were to comprehend his meaning.
]Much as they were accustomed to his mode of
speaking, they yet stupidly supposed, that, in this
remark, he meant to blame them for forgetting to
put bread on board the boat. He was obliged to
explain to them, that he meant the doctrine, and
not the bread, of the Pharisees. This is a little
thing perhaps; but we may easily see how his
spirit must have been sometimes tried and his
hopes damped, by dulness and want of faith in
those whom he taught. It must have been no
small trial, when about to commit his religion to
the care of these men, to find that they did not
comprehend it; and to be obliged to complain of
them as of " little faith," " slow of heart to under-
stand."

They landed at Bethsaida, on the upper end of



HE VISITS CESAREA PHILIPPI. 165

the lake. Here he restored sight to a blind man,
in a very private way, as if he desired to avoid
notice; and then proceeded with his disciples to
Cesarea Philippi. This city was about forty miles
directly north of Bethsaida. It stood near to the
ancient Laish, or possibly on the same site. It
had been rebuilt by PhiHp, the present tetrarch
of the province, and was named by him Cesarea,
in honor of the Emperor. His own name was ad-
ded, in order to distinguish it from another Cesa-
rea on the coast. It was a place of some note.
What was the object of our Lord's visit there, is
not stated. As far as can be judged from circum-
stances, he was simply seeking to avoid Herod,
until the time when he should go up to Jerusalem.
Hence his journey was private, without crowds,
miracles, or discourses; — at least none are re-
corded.

One circumstance, however, is related, which
serves to show the state of his mind, and formed
the beginning of a new era in his history. He
knew that his ministry was soon to end, and that
he must leave his great plans to be carried on by
the few affectionate men that were with him. He
knew that they were devoted to him with zealous
hearts, yet he had seen something of their dul-
ness, and was aware that they did net fully un-

Mark viii. 22.



166 THE LIFE OF THE SAVIOUR.

derstand him. Would tliey have strength to bear
the disappointment of their hopes, and adhere to
him iaitht'ulJy, when they should find that the loss
of all earthly honors awaited them? As yet he
had not spoken to them directly on this subject.
He had not revealed to them, that he was to be
taken from them by a violent and disgraceful
death. It was necessary to break to them the
truth.

The present seemed to be the suitable time for
doing it. He was at a distance from the ordinary
sphere of his labors, and the scene of his recent
triumphs. Instead of being accompanied by
thousands of grateful and admiring men, who
hung on his lips, rejoiced in his benevolent power,
and longed to proclaim him king, he was hurrying
privately from place to place, attended only by a
few tried friends, seeking concealment from the ty-
rant who had just put his harbinger to death. All
this must have perplexed his disciples. How is
it, they would say, that just as all seemed ripe for
the explosion, instead of availing himself of the
advantageous crisis, he shuns it; avoids the peo-
ple, seeks retirement, does few miracles, and
those almost by stealth.'* Jesus felt that such
thoughts must be passing through the minds of
his followers, and must severely perplex them.

Matt. xvi. 13. Mark viii. 27. Luke ix. 18.



HE SPEAKS OF HIS DEATH. 167

What wonder if they should even waver in their
opinion, and doubt whether, after all, he were the
Messiah ? He might be only a forerunner, as
many men supposed him.

In order therefore to ascertain the state of their
minds, and prepare the way for the yet more fear-
ful disclosures that must soon be made, he speaks
to them on the subject. He asks them, first, what
is the general opinion of men respecting himself.
They tell him, that opinions are various. Some
think him to be John the Baptist, some Elijah,
and others say that one of tlie old prophets is ris-
en again. That is, his course had been so dif-
ferent from what tliey anticipated in the Messiah,
that men generally did not believe him to be he,
though they were willino; to think him a great
prophet sent to prepare the way. Jesus then
asked their own opinion; had they also been so
disappointed at this change in his affairs, as to
doubt respecting him.'' *' Whom say ye that I
am?" Peter immediately replied, "Thou art
the Christ." There was no hesitation. The an-
swer was direct, frank, hearty. It proved that
nothing had occurred to shake their confidence,
or cause a serious doubt. Jesus rewarded the
heartiness of the confession, by a strong expres-
si )n of pleasure and approbation. " Blessed art
thou, Simon, son of Jonas," he exclaimed; " for
fiesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee.



168 THE LIFE OF THE SAVIOUR. .

but my Father who is in heaven." And then
added that distinguished promise, " I say unto
thee, thou art Peter," — a rock indeed; — "and
on this rock I will build my church ; and the gates
of hell shall not prevail against it."

Thus it was evident that the minds of the
Twelve did not waver; and this emphatic promise
to Peter was eminently adapted to encourage and-
confirm them. But there was more yet to be
done. He had now at length, for the first time-
as it would seem, solemnly and formally recognis-
ed the title of Messiah in the presence of his fol-
lowers. They might think themselves at liberty
immediately to act upon it, and proclaim him tO'
the people. But this would be inconsistent with
the designs of Providence. He therefore strictly
forbade it. " He charged them straitly, that they
should tell no man of him." He would not have
them publish his titles and office until they rightly
understood them; and he went on to explain to
them, that they did not rightly understand them.
He told them that instead of a triumphant, he was
to be a suflTering, leader; instead of an army and
a throne, the homage of the people and the do-
minion of the nations, he must go to Jerusalem,
" and suflfer many things from the elders, chief
priests, and scribes, and be put to death, and rise
again the third day."

They heard these words with dismay. How



HE INSTRUCTS THE DISCIPLES. 169

contrary to their expectations, how opposed to all
their notions of their Messiah's fortunes! Peter,
with his usual ardor and boldness, loudly express-
ed his feelings. He expostulated with his Master,
insisted that it must not, and should not, be as he
had said. He not improbably went further, and
attempted to persuade him to resist forcibly the
oppression of which he had spoken. Jesus, whose
meekness and gentleness formed a strong contrast
to the vehemence of his disciple, was hurt at this
violent outbreak of zeal, and saw the necessity of
checking it at once; it might easily lead to most
disastrous consequences. Therefore " he turned
and looked on his disciples," says Mark, that they
might observe how positive and resolved he was,
and loudly rebuked Peter as influenced by a
worldly ambition and a regard to human hon-
ors, rather than by a religious regard to the will
and purposes of God. Then turning to all his
disciples, in the hearing of the people, he with
great solemnity urged on them the duty of adhe-
ring to their profession at every risk, and through
all hardships of self-denial. If they would have
the advantages and glories of his kingdom, they
must be ready to relinquish their selfish hopes, to
take up the cross, and even surrender their lives.
They were pledged to a suffering and despised
master, they must not be ashamed of him, they
must acknowledge him before man; otherwise,
15



170 THE LIFE OF THE SAVIOUR.

he would not acknowledge and honor them in the
great day of his real glory. For, he assured them,
he should come in the glory of his Father and of
the angels, and bring to every one a reward ac-
cording to his character and fidelity. Thus he
encouraged them by the solemn and magnificent
promise of a final triumph, notwithstanding what
he had just taught them of his approaching suffer-
ino-s and disgrace. And that this might the more
forcibly impress them, he ended with saying,
that there were some present among them who
should not taste of death, till they had seen the
kingdom of God coming with power. Thus
mingling the new vision of evil he had just open-
ed to them, with a stern precept of duty and an
animating prospect of glory, he sought to make
on them that profound impression which would
prepare them to meet with firmness and con-
stancy the trials before them.

The lesson was not lost on them. Oftentimes,
doubtless, in after days, when they were preaching
the doctrines of their despised master in the midst
of obloquy and scorn, of peril, privation and death,
they recalled to mind the powerful words in
which he had first taught them, that they must
endure suffering for his sake, and follow in the
bloody path of his cross to their reward; and
when they did so, and then remembered how he
had suffered and was now glorified, they felt



HE INSTRUCTS THE DISCIPLES. 171

themselves armed to endure all things for his
sake; they braved persecution and torture; they
confessed him before men in prison and amid
flames, and died rejoicing in the confidence that he
would confess them before his Father in heaven.

It is not they only, to whom those precepts res-
pecting self-denial and the necessity of owning
our holy Master, were addressed. To none are
they inapplicable, who hope to enter on the future
life which he has revealed.



172 THE LIFE OF THE SAVIOUR.



CHAPTER XV.

THE TRANSFIGURATION — JESUS RETURNS TO CAPER-
NAUM—PASSES THROUGH PER^A TOWARD JERUSA-
LEM.

While the minds of the disciples were in a
state of amazement at the new prospect opened
before them, an event took place calculated to
enlighten and instruct them, as well as to prepare
them for their coming trials. Six days after the
scene recorded at the close of the last chapter,
Jesus took his three confidential apostles, Peter,
James, and John, and retired with them to a
mountain for purposes of devotion; — another
example of his custom to devote a season to spe-
cial prayer at every important crisis of his life.
While he prayed, his appearance became changed,
his countenance shone with a lustre like that of
the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
At the same time Moses and Elijah, the two great
names of the ancient dispensation, appeared to
him, and conversed with him respecting his ap-
proaching death at Jerusalem. Perhaps they
were sent to reveal to him fully all its purposes
and necessity. Perhaps, as when he afterward
prayed earnestly in the garden, an angel was sent

Matt. xvii. 1. Mark ix. 2. Luke ix. 28.



THE TRANSFIGURATION. 173

to strengthen him, so now, as he prayed on the
mountain, these holy prophets were sent to cheer
nirn and help him to meet his fearful trials. This
however we do not know, and there is no room
to enter into a discussion of all the questions to
which this remarkable event has given rise. One
thing is clear. It was. designed to give a divine
testimony to the character and authority of Jesus;
for, as the prophets departed and the bright cloud
moved away, a voice was heard saying, " This is
my beloved son; hear him." Peter afterwards,
in one of his I]pistles, refers to this voice " from
the excellent glory" as one of the evidences of his
Master's truth. As they went down from the
mountain, Jesus forbade the three witnesses to
speak of it until he had risen from the dead.
Mark tells us, that they observed the injunction,
but were greatly perplexed to understand what
was meant by the rising from the dead. None
of the apostles seem to have arrived at any right
apprehension on this subject during their Lord's
life; and we shall find, as we go on, that his va-
rious attempts to explain it were lost upon them.
There is reason to suppose, that they thought it
not a recovery from actual death, for it was a cur-
rent opinion among the Jews, that the Messiah
should never die; but a rising to the power and
office of his kingdom.

But if they could not understand what was
15*



174 THE LIFE OF TIJE SAVIOUR.

meant by the resuiTCction, neither could they
comprehend why they should conceal what they
had seen. There was a tradition, derived from
the prophet Maiachi, that Elijah should appear
before the coming of the Messiah. Why should
they not proclaim, that they had seen him on the
mountain? They asked an explanation; and
Jesus informed them, that Elijah had already ap-
peared, and been put to death. The office de-
scribed by Maiachi, had been performed by John
the Baptist.

On reaching the plain, they found the other
disciples surrounded by a crowd, and among
them a man with a lunatic son, whom the disciples
had in vain striven to heal. Jesus reproved them
for their want of faith, and healed the unfortunate
boy. When questioned by the Apostles why they
had not been able to do it, he answered, " Because
of your unbelief;" and assured them that if their
faith were but strong, no miracle would be im-
possible to them. And their faith was to be ren-
dered thus strong, he added, by prayer and fast-
ing; — by faithful use of the means of devotion
and spiritual strength.

It has been thought that the beautiful and pic-
turesque mountain of Tabor was that on which
the transfiguration took place. But the summit

Matt. xvii. 14. Mark ix. 14. Luke ix. 37.



HE PAYS THE TAX. 175

of Tabor was far too public a spot for a transac-
tion of this nature; and besides, the course of the
history shows that it could not have occurred in
Galilee, and that it probably took place in the
neighborhood of Cesarea Philippi.

Shortly after this event, they directed their way
to Galilee, and returned to Capernaum, from which
they had been for some time absent. Their re-
turn was private, for Jesus was desirous of con-
cealing his movements as far as possible; "he
would not that anyone should know it." Perhaps
he would not have returned home at all, except
that it might be necessary for some purposes pre-
vious to his final departure for Jerusalem. As
they journeyed, the subject of his approaching
end appears to have occupied their minds; indeed
how could it be otherwise? *' Let these sayings
sink deep into your ears," said he; "the Son of
man shall be delivered into the hands of men, and
they will kill him. But he will rise again the third
day." But they understood not this saying, says
the Evangelist, and were afraid to ask him. Hence
it remained without explanation, and they put upon
it that construction which was most consonant to
their prejudices and wishes; — a construction which
afterwards entirely misled them.

On arriving at Capernaum, the officers whose
duty it was to collect a certain tax, inquired of
Peter whether his Master did not pay it ? Peter,



176 THE LIFE OF THE SAVIOUR.

aware that Jesus had resided long enough in Ca-
pernaum to have it considered his lawtul home,
rephed that he did. It is not perfectly clear what
this tax was. It was perhaps the poll-tax levied
by the Romans; but more probably it was the tax
of half a shekel required to be paid by all Jews of
twenty years old and upward, for the use of the
Temple. When Peter went into the house to
speak of the subject to Jesus, his Lord immedi-
ately explained to him that, as the princes of the
earth do not assess their own children, he, as the
Son of God, would be rightfully excused from the
payment of a tax to the Temple, which was his
Father's house. He probably said this, because
he desired, at this critical period, to impress on
his followers, by every possible means, the assur-
ance of his authority and dignity. For now the
season was coming in which their steadfastness
would be tried. Yet, that he might give no un-
necessary offence, he paid the tax; and, what is
very remarkable, by performing a miracle; — the
only instance in which he wrought a miracle for
his own convenience.

Immediately after this an incident occurred,
which shows the extreme difficulty in which he
was placed in relation to the disciples. If he
spoke of his sufferings and death, they were in

Matt. xvii. 24.



THE AMBITION OP THE DISCIPLES. 177

sorrow and despair. If to cheer them he spoke
of his resurrection, or asserted his dignity, as he
had just done when speaking of the tax, they im-
mediately misunderstood him, and indulged erro-
neous expectations. Such, it now appeared, had
been the result of his recent communications.
They contrived to satisfy themselves, that, what-
ever their Lord might mean, he could not mean
to give up the kingdom of Israel and the throne
of David; and as the time seemed to be drawing
nigh, they began to be desirous of knowing what
offices they should possess and what privileges
enjoy. This had been a topic of speculation with
them on their journey from Cesarea Philippi, and
was carried so far as to occasion some dispute.
They could not agree which of them ought to
hold the highest offices, or be " the greatest," as
they expressed it. Now nothing could be less
agreeable to the mind of their IVIaster, than such
a strife as this. It showed not only a spirit of
ambition and rivalry, but a desire of worldly dis-
tinction. Jesus, therefore, took an early opportu-
nity to rebuke it; and he did it in that impressive
way, which was so characteristic of him. He
called the Twelve together to him in the house,
and placed a little child before them. There,
said he, is your example. Unless you give up this

Matt xviii. Mark ix. 33. Luke ix. 46.

M



178 THE LIFE OF THE SAVIOUB.

ambitious desire of personal distinction, and hum-
ble yourselves like children, instead of attaining
high places in my kingdom, you will not even
have any place in it. If any of you insist on be-
ing first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.
And thus he went on, warning them against am-
bition, urging them to severe and self-denying
virtue, and to mutual kindness, forbearance, and
forgiveness, in a discourse at once the most solemn
and affectionate. They could not have heard it
without strong emotion. It seems as if it must
have removed from their hearts forever all am-
bitious rivalry and unkind feeling. For he illus-
trated it by parables, setting forth the infinite grace
and long-suflTering of God in representations so
wonderfully affecting, that all selfish pride and
unrelenting hardness of disposition are made to
seem despicable.

With this conversation our Lord closed his
ministry in Galilee. It began, as we may judge
from the first public discourse upon record, with
benedictions on the meek, the humble, the for-
giving, as if he thus would paint the character
and display the genius of his religion. And we
have just seen that it closed with pathetically im-
pressing on his chosen Twelve tlie same great
lessons; — lessons difficult to be learned, but
which form the loveliness of the Christian char-
acter.



HE GOES TO JERUSALEM. 179

And now, says the Evangelist, " when the time
was come that he should he received up, he
steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem." He
knew what awaited him, but he would not shrink
from it. The great work for which he had been
sent into the world, and which he had devoted
himself to accomplish, could not be complete
except through his death. And he went stead-
fastly forward to meet it. He went, in one sense,
alone. His nearest friends did not comprehend
his situation. From them, therefore, he had no
true sympathy. If he talked with them, they
misunderstood his words. JVone but God knew
what was before him; with none but God could
he commune on the dreadful and mysterious fate
which was approaching. But he felt that He heard
hinralways; and he was not alone, for his Father
was with him.

On leaving Capernaum, he at first attempted
to pass by the direct route to Judea, which lies
through Samaria. But he was refused admittance
into one of the towns, because he was going up
to the great feast at Jerusalem. Such was the
religious bigotry of that people against the Jews.
The disciples, who not only had a strong attach-
ment to their Lord, but who were expecting him
soon to appear in his glory as the Messiah,

Matthew xix. 1. 'lark x. 1. Luke ix. 51.



180 THE LIFE OF THE SAVIOUR.

were highly indignant at so insulting treatment;
and James and John carried the feeling so far,
that they proposed to him to call down fire from
heaven upon them, as Elijah had once done.
But Jesus had no sympathy with such feelings or
measures. He turned and rebuked them, saying,
*' Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.'*
And then, to avoid all contention, he gave up his
original plan, crossed the Joidan, and proceeded
on his way through the country which lies on the
other side of the river.

His journey thus lay through Persea, a region
which he had once or twice before visited, but
where probably he was in general known only
by reputation. The people resorted to him as he
passed, and he taught and healed them. He was
still in Herod's dominions; but his reason's for
privacy seem to have existed no longer, now that
he was secure of reaching Jerusalem in season
for the feast. He went publicly, in company
doubtless with the people who at this time must
have been thronging the roads on the way to the
city. He was one day warned by some Phari-
sees, that Herod was in pursuit of him, and advis-
ed to flee: " Get thee out, and depart hence; for
Herod wdll kill thee." But he replied, that he
feared him not ; that he should proceed on his way,
teaching and working miracles, for tvv'o days; and
on the third should finish his errand and be out of



HE BLESSES THE CHILDREN. 181

the reach of the crafty prince. No one'could now
hinder him from completing his work; for it was
not possible for a prophet to perish out of Jerusa-
lem. And when he had said this, being deeply-
affected at the thought of the guilt and the wretch-
edness of that devoted city, he burst out in the
pathetic exclamation: '' O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
thou that killest the prophets and stonest them
that are sent unto thee, how often would I have
gathered thy children together, as a hen gather-
eth her brood under her wings! and ye would
not. Behold, your house is left unto you deso-
late."

This last journey to Jerusalem was signalized
by many incidents and discourses. It was at this
time that the Pharisees came to him, and attempt-
ed to ensnare him by subtile questions about the
law of marriage and divorce; whom he silenced
by the clearness and wisdom of his replies. Now
it was too, that certain parents brought to him
their little children, that they might share the at-
tention and receive the blessing of the benevolent
teacher. The disciples did not understand how
suitable this was to their INIaster's character, and
they rebuked those who brought them. But
Jesus, who had so lately recommended the exam-
ple of a child to his ambitious followers, was

Luke xiii. 31. Matthew xix. 3.

16



182 THE LIFE OF THE SAVIOUR.

pleased to show his affection and honor for the
little innocents. He therefore encouraged the
parents whom the Apostles had refused, and took
their children to his arms and blessed them;
saying, " Suffer the children to come to me, and
forbid 'them not; for of such is the kingdom of
God." He then reminded his mistaken friends
of what he had so recently taught them; —that it
was only by being like these children, that they
could enter into his kingdom, or be partakers of
the real blessings he had come to dispense.

It was during this journey also, that a rich
young man came to him, earnestly inquiring
what he should do to inherit eternal life. There
was something so prepossessing in his appearance
of amiableness and sincerity, that Jesus is said
to have looked on him with peculiar complacency.
But amiable dispositions, and sincerity of purpose,
are of themselves insufficient; and he required
him to give proof of his attachment to principle
and to himself, by distributing his property in char-
ity, and devoting himself to his ministry. This
was more than the ardent young man could bring
himselftodo; and he departed, " sorrowing," it is
said; for he would have been glad to attach him-
self to the Messiah, if he could have done it with-
out a sacrifice. His riches were the obstacle;



Matthew xix. 13. Mark x. 13. Luke xviii. 15.



HE AGAIN SPEAKS OF HIS DEATH. 183


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryHenry WareThe life of the saviour → online text (page 10 of 15)