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hearts whether he were the Christ or not." They
thronged to him from Jerusalem, and all Judea,
and were baptized of him in the Jordan, confes-
sing their sins, and anxiously inquiring for the
Messiah. Even the chief men of the nation
were excited; and a formal deputation of priests
and Levites was sent out to him from Jerusalem,
while he was at Bethabara beyond Jordan, about
thirty-five miles distant, to inquire of him whether
he were the Christ, or whether they must wait yet
longer for his appearance. John acknowledged
to them, that he was not; that he was only come
to prepare the way for the Christ, agreeably to
the prediction of Isaiah: " I am the voice of one
crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of
the Lord, make his paths straight."

The people were therefore satisfied that he was
not the Messiah; but they honored him as a great
prophet, and he preached to them with boldness
and severity. When he saw Pharisees and Sad-
ducees coming to his baptism, whom he knew to

John i.


be hypocritical and worldly, he cried out to them,
*' O generation of vipers, who hath warned you
to flee from the wrath to come ? Bring forth fruit
meet for repentance." He did not spare them,
though they were members of the most powerful
sects in the land. To the publicans also, and
soldiers, who came to him, he gave appropriate
warning and instruction. And, in a word, he did
what he could, to rouse the nation from its sinful
condition, and prepare it to receive in a right spirit
the great messenger who was to succeed him.
He undoubtedly produced some effect; but the
people were too corrupt to be easily reformed.
Indeed they were so intent on having a Messiah
who should lead them to political freedom ana
glory, that they had little relish for moral exhor-
tation and religious duty.




The time at length arrived, when Jesus should
enter on his public work. He had reached the
age of thirty years, the period prescribed in the
law for the induction of the priests into their of-
fice. Hitherto he had lived in retirement, undis-
tinguished from the men about him. He had
been making no visible preparation for the great
duties he was to perform. He attended no dis-
tinguished school; he was brought up at the feet
%f no learned Rabbi or eminent philosopher; it is
not certain that he had learned, as men learn, the
very elements of knowledge. Having therefore
no human att^nments to fit him for his arduous
office, he must be qualified for it by supernatural
endowments. Nothing but the consciousness of
possessing these, could embolden and enable the
lowly Galilean to undertake the religious reforma-
tion of his country and of the world..

The time being arrived, he left Nazareth, and
went to the place where John was preaching and
baptizing on the banks of the Jordan. He went,
like the rest of the people, to be baptized. Now

Matt. ill. 13. Mark i. 9. Luke ill. 21.


John and Jesus, being related to each other
through their mothers, who were cousins, were
probably well acquainted, though they did not
dwell in the same place ; but John did not know
that Jesus was the Messiah. So well however
did he know the purity of his character, that when
he saw him coming to be baptized, he was unwil-
ling to allow it. It is more fit, said he, that you
should baptize me, and do you come to me? But
Jesus answered, that it was a duty to observe all
religious ordinances, and this one ought not to be
neglected. He did not need it as a sign of his
sinfulness and repentance; but he wished to con-
form to it, because it was appointed of God..
" Thus it becomes us to fulfil all righteousness,"
he said. John was satisfied with this explanation,
and baptized him. Then came the moment for
announcing the Messiah to the woiid. The hea-
vens opened, and the spirit descended in visible
form like a dove, and alighted on him; and at the
same moment a voice was heard from heaven,
saying, " This is my beloved Son, in whom I am
well pleased."

This was the first public attestation to the Mes-
siahship of Jesus, The arrival of the long ex-
pected prophet was thus proclaimed. John, the
forerunner, who had been waiting for him, and
the people who were impatient to see him, were
made certain that this was he; and he himself


was both assured that he was not under a delu-
sion, in supposing himself the chosen one of God,
and received that gift of the spirit " mthout
measure," which was to fit him for his great work.
Under the influence of this spirit he immedi-
ately went up from the Jordan, and retired into
the heart of the desert. His mind was full of the
thoughts which the greatness of the occasion ex-
cited. He went by himself, away from human
society, to meditate on the wonders of his con-
dition, to contemplate the labors before him, and
to commune with God. From the humble village
of Nazareth, from the obscurity of cottage life,
^ he was to go forth as a prophet and preacher, to
stand in the city of his people, and amongst the
powerful and learned men of his time. He was
to leave the labors of the artisan for the toils of a
religious ministry, to bear the last messages of
God to Judah, and to change the religion of the
world. What a moment was this! What won -
der that he felt inclined, that he felt it necessary,
to seclude himself ! He could have no thought
for any thing but the toils and trials before him,
and for communion with his own soul and his

He wandered into the desert. It does not fol-
low because a place is called desert in the Scrip-
tures, that it is therefore wholly wild and savage.
It may mean any uninhabited and uncultivated


place, even though it were fruitful. The unin-
habited places adjoining the towns were called
deserts, yet they were frequently excellent pastur-
age. But the vast wilderness of Judea, stretch-
ing along the Dead Sea to the south of Jerusa-
lem, was, in some parts, extremely desolate. It
was barren, rocky, and mountainous. And as
Mark says that Jesus was with the " wild beasts,"
he probably retreated into the wildest of these
places, where even fruits and berries could not be
found sufficient to satisfy his hunger.

At length he felt the consequences of so long
fasting. He was weary and weak. He was
hungry, and craved food. And then it was, when
thus worn with the fatigue of much watching and
abstinence, that he was exposed to the tempta-
tions so fearfully described by the Evangelists.
The history of those temptations has exercised
the minds of learned men, who have explained
them in many different ways. It is not neces-
sary here to enter into the discussion of what is
difficult. There is enough that is plain. We
read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that Jesus was
" tempted in all points like as we are, yet without
sin." So it was in these temptations in the wil-
derness. They came upon him when hungry and
faint, and when it might seem a small thing to use

Matt. iv. Mark i. 12. Luke iv.


his power of working miracles, in order to change
stones into bread, and satisfy his exhausted na-
ture. But he would not do it, for he felt that the
divine power had been imparted to him for no
such selfish purposes. Neither would he yield to
the temptation to make himself such a Messiah
as the Jews were expecting, and seize upon the
kingdoms and glory of the world. This he could
easily have accomplished; but it would have been
unfaithfulness to God and duty. Neither would
he draw on himself the admiration and easy re-
ception of the people, by descending into the midst
of them, as if borne on angels' wings, from the
pinnacle of the temple. He resisted every sug-
gestion to gratify and aggrandize himself Neith-
er bodily suffering, nor the offers of worldly great-
ness, nor the desire of human applause, could
divert him from what he knew to be his duty. In
these things he was tempted as we are, (and they
are the temptations to which men most frequent-
ly yield,) yet it was without sin. He came from
them untouched; and he has thus taught us, that
true greatness consists in resisting evil, and ad-
hering steadfastly to duty.

There is much in this incident particularly
suited to impress and instruct the young. They
are just entering on the work of life, as Jesus
was just entering on his ministry. They are be-
set with temotations which would turn them aside


from duty. They are tempted by sensual and
worldly gratifications, by appetite and passion,
by wealth and pleasure, by honor and applause.
They are tempted to sacrifice principle to policy,
to abandon duty for interest, to forget their re-
sponsibility to God in their desire to secure the
favor of man. Let them learn of Jesus. His
example will teach them to encounter and resist.
Let them do as he did; — promptly silence the
tempter, refuse to hear the evil suggestion, and
summon up to their aid the strong power of God's
holy word. If they thus resist, they will over-
come. The great conflict of virtue will be achiev-
ed in the beginning of their course, and their
subsequent path will be comparatively plain and






It would greatly aid to the clear understanding
of the course of our Saviour's life, if we were able
to give dates to the several events. This, how-
ever, with regard to the greater part of them, is
impossible. The Evangelists have marked very
few of them in such a way, that we can determine
the precise time at which they took place. They
do not even pretend to relate them all in the order
in which they occurred. So far were they from
thinking this a matter of great importance, that
they have not so much as informed us how long
the ministry of Christ lasted. Consequently there
have been very various opinions on this point.
Many persons suppose it to have continued about
three years. Some think it could have been no
longer than about a year. And others have fan-
cied it to have been extended through many years.

It is not possible to examine here the reasons
on which these several opinions are founded. I
can only say, that on the whole, I believe the sec-
ond to be the most probable. It was the opinion
entertained by the early Christians; and it is fa-
vored by the general course and character of the


gospel narratives. There were three gieat annu-
al festivals in the Jewish Church, at which all the
men were expected to appear at Jerusalem, and
at which therefore we must suppose Jesus to have
faithfully attended. The Evangelist John has
recorded his visits to Jerusalem; and we find that
he makes mention of a Passover, of a feast of
Tabernacles, of a feast between them, which must
have been that of the Pentecost, and of another
Passover. This exactly makes out the festivals
in their proper order, for a little more than one
year. The other three EvangeHsts relate what
took place in the country, and omit his visits to
the city. We thus have, in John's Gospel, the
regular account of what our Lord did in Jerusa-
lem at four several festivals, and, in the otiier
Evangelists, a relation of what he did at other
times and places. The present history is arrano -
ed on this principle. The Passover mentioned in
the sixth chapter of John, being regarded as that
at which our Lord suffered, the events of that
chapter are transposed accordingly. The whole
scheme thus becomes simple and probable, and is
attended with fewer difficulties than perhaps any

* This is the plan proposed by Dr. Carpenter, in his Ge-
ognqjhy of the JVeic Testament, and illustrated in the Harmo-
ny recently published in Boston, under the care of Profes-
sor Palfrey, (by Gray & Bowen.) I have seen cause to


A brief preliminary survey of the order and
connexion of events, will facilitate a clear appre-
hension of the history. It may be observed, then,
that our Saviour's ministry naturally divides itself
into five parts, corresponding to the several visits
which he made to Jerusalem. His home was in
Galilee; and thence he travelled to Jerusalem
five times, on occasion of five several festivals; —
the Passover, the feast of Pentecost, the feast of
Tabernacles, the feast of Dedication, and the
Passover a second time.

1. At what time of year his baptism took place,
we have no means of ascertaining; perhaps in
January. He then spent forty days in the desert,
returned to Galilee, wrought his first miracle at
Cana, and went up to attend the Passover at Jeru-
salem, In the year A. D. 29, this festival occur-
red on the 19th of March. This date is certain,
for it depends on astronomical calculation.

2. From this Passover he abode in Galilee, till
he returned to attend the feast of Pentecost in
Jerusalem, the 8th of May.

vary from it very little. It commends itself by its simplici-
ty and ingenuity. — In explanation of the transposition of the
sixth chapter of John, it is to be observed, that the feeding of
the five thousand is there said to have taken place when
" the Passover was nigh." According to the other Evan-
gelists, it took place not long before the last Passover. It
seems proper to give to the event the same date in the narra-
tive which the latter have given to it ; for they specify which
Passover was nigh, which John does not.


3. He spent the summer in Galilee, but we
have no particulars respecting his employment.
He returned to Jerusalem on the 16th of Septem-
ber, the third day of the feast of Tabernacles.

4. At the close of the feast he returned home
to Galilee, and then began the most active portion
of his ministry. He travelled twice over GaHlee,
and sent out the twelve apostles and the seventy
disciples. He came to Jerusalem to the feast of
Dedication on the 26th of November.

5. The next interval he spent partly in Galilee,
partly on the other side of the Jordan, partly in
journeying from place to place, and returned to
Jerusalem at the Passover in April. On Friday,
the 7th of April, he was crucified; and the ascen-
sion consequently took place on the 1 1th of JMay.

On looking attentively at this statement, it will
be seen, that our Lord's ministry, from his bap-
tism to his death, lasted about one year and three
months; and that far the greater portion of the
records of the Evangelists relate to the last eight
months. Indeed ten of the twenty-one chapters
of John are occupied with the narrative of the last
six days. It may be useful to bear in mind this
proportion between the several parts of his min-

As we cannot determine the precise date of the
Baptism, we cannot tell on what day he returned
from his retirement of forty days in the wilderness.


It appears to have been on the day before his re-
turn, that the chief men of Jerusalem sent to John
the Baptist the messengers ah-eady mentioned, to
inquire whether he were the Christ. John denied
it, as we have seen; but assured them, at the
same time, that the Messiah was standing amongst
them, though they knew him not. He then ex-
pressed his sense of his own inferiority, by adding,
that he was not worthy to unloose the shoes' latch-
et of that eminent person. The day after John's
interview with the deputation from Jerusalem, Je-
sus, returning from his temptation, arrived at the
place where John was; and John pointed to him
as the person of whom he had spoken. " Behold
the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the
world! This is he of whom I said, After me com-
eth a man who is preferred before me, for he was
before me."

This declaration of course excited the attention
of those who heard it. Many would not give it
credit, for they had no idea that the Messiah
could appear in a humble form. But others would
think differently ; and those who were most devot-
ed to John as his disciples, would be most likely
to put trust in his assertion. When, therefore, he
again, the next day, pointed to Jesus as he passed
by, it is not strange that two of them immediately
followed him, and sought to introduce themselves

John i.


to him. One of these was Andrew, and the other
is mentioned in such a way by the Evangelist
John, as to render it probable that it was himself.
Jesus, perceiving their intention, turned to them
and kindly invited them to his lodgings. It was
" about the tenth hour," — nearly evening; and
they remained with him that day. We cannot
help wishing that we had an account of this inter-
view. How interesting it would be to know what
passed between the young Messiah, and the first
two persons who joined themselves to him! The
consequence was, that they were persuaded that
this indeed was he; and Andrew, desirous that his
brother Simon should partake of his own satisfac-
tion, brought him at once and introduced him
to Jesus. Jesus immediately gave proof of his
wonderful knowledge of men, by saying to him,
" Thou art Simon; thou shalt be called Cephas,"
or Peter, — that is, a rock; for he knew the ener-
gy of his character, and that his labors would be
the foundation of the church.

These three persons, all of the same place,
Bethsaida, a small town near the lake of Galilee,
were the first to whom was given the honor of
joining themselves to the new prophet. They, as
well as he, were at a distance from their homes.
They had come to Bethabara, a distance of at
least seventy miles, on account of the baptism of
John. By his preaching, their minds had been in


some measure prepared to embrace the Saviour,
and they readily became his disciples. There
were others there also, from the same part of the
country. Philip, a townsman of Andrew and
Peter, was invited to join them. No sooner had
he done this, than he sought to draw a friend of
his, Nathanael, into the company. Whether he too
v/as a townsman, we do not know; but he v/as a
sincere man, who, with all his goodness of heart,
had much of the common prejudice against Naza-
reth, And when he heard that the person whom
his friend was so anxious to have him see, was
from that despised village, he asked with a sneer,
" Can any good thing come out of Nazareth.^"
Philip, instead of reasoning with him, simply re-
plied, " Come and see;" — the most sensible an-
swer he could have given, and the best answer to
be given to all who pretend to doubt whether any
thing good can come from Christ's religion. Je-
sus knew the character and heart of Nathanael,
and as soon as he saw him, uttered the memorable
eulogium, " Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom
is no guile." When Nathanael expressed sur-
prise at finding himself known, Jesus astonished
him by still another proof of unexpected knowl-
edge. By this he was convinced, and exclaimed,
" Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the
King of Israel." In this reply v/e have the ear-
liest profession of faith in Christ which is recorded


in the Gospels. Jesus received it graciously,
and assured Nathanael in reply, that he should
see greater things yet; that he should witness
the most incontestable supernatural proofs of his
intercourse with heaven; — " Ye shall see the
heavens open, and the angels of God ascending
and descending on the son of man." Here we
observe that our Lord, at the very beginning of
his ministry, used that striking figurative language
for which he was always remarkable. It had an
emphasis and grandeur suited to the greatness of
him who spake it; it drew attention, and dwelt in
the memory of those who heard it; and, though
sometimes hard to be understood, was yet accom-
modated to the habits of the people whom he ad-
dressed, and was venerable in their eyes from its
resemblance to the manner of their prophets.

Thus speedily did the Messiah collect the first
adherents to his cause; Andrew, John, Simon
Peter, Philip, and Nathanael, — five honored and
immortal names. They united themselves to the
fortunes of Jesus of Nazareth, notwithstanding
their prejudices against his town, and the humble-
ness of his appearance, because they had seen
him, conversed with him, and judged for them-
selves of his pretensions.

And now, accompanied by this little band of
friends, certainly by Philip, most probably by all,
he left the banks of the Jordan, and turned his
5 D


face homeward. We are left to imagine the
meeting between him and his mother, when she
saw the son of her hopes returned from his bap-
tism, wearing at length the character she had so
long waited for him to assume, and accompanied
by followers who were pledged to him as their

Three days after his return, there was a mar-
riage at the neighboring village of Cana, three
miles distant, at which Jesus was present with
his mother and disciples. Here Mary was desi-
rous that he should make proof of his miraculous
power, which as yet he had never done; a power,
which she, with a feeling very natural in a moth-
er, was impatient to have exhibited. A Jewish
marriage was an occasion of great publicity and
pomp. It lasted seven days. Mary seems to
have had a peculiar interest in the present occa-
sion, not improbably was occupied in superintend-
ing the celebration. She perceived that the sup-
ply of wine was insufficient. It seemed to her to
offer a fit occasion for the exercise of her son's
miraculous power. She suggested it to him.
His reply intimates, that this was a matter in
which he could not allow her to interfere or ad-
vise ; that he should do miracles when the proper
time came, but that no one must presume to con-
John ii.


trol him. Yet, as he perceived it to be a case of
real embarrassment to the parties, who were pro-
bably poor, and he was always ready, in his over-
flowing good-will, to do any kindness which was
not inconsistent with his religious duty, he did
what his mother had suggested, and signalized
the festival by the first of those miracles whose
power has converted the world. With beautiful
simplicity the Evangelist relates all the particu-
lars as they took place, and how the master of
the ceremonies praised the wine as better than
any that had been drunk before. Thus, he adds,
did Jesus manifest his glory, and his disciples be-
lieved on him; they were certain now, since they
were witnesses of the divine power he possessed,
that he was indeed the long expected prophet.

From Cana he went down, with his mother,
brothers, and disciples, to Capernaum, a village
about eighteen miles distant on the western border
of the lake. He remained there but a few days.
The Passover was near at hand, and they were
preparing to go, probably all in company, to join
in its celebration at Jerusalem.




The Passover was the principal festival of the
Jewish nation. It was appointed to commemo-
rate the deliverance of the people from their bond-
age in Egypt, and received its name from the
circumstance that the destroying angel, who was
sent to slay the first-born of the Egyptians, j^^^^-
ed over the houses of the Israelites. It was also
called the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because
no leavened bread might be eaten during its con-
tinuance. It lasted for seven days, and was ob-
served with many appropriate ceremonies and
sacrifices. The most remarkable, was the sacri-
ficing and eating of the paschal lamb, which took
place on the first night. Each family slew its
lamb, which was roasted whole, and eaten with
many significant forms. The next day was sig-
nalized by the solemn offering in the Temple of
the first fruits of the barley-harvest. Sacrifices
peculiar to the festival were offered every day,
and the first and the last were especially holy.

This festival occurred in the spring, at the full
moon of the vernal equinox. It was a festival for


the whole people ; and all the male inhabitants of
the land were obliged to go up and keep it at the
temple. At this time, therefore, Jesus, with his
disciples and friends, left Capernaum for Jerusa-
lem. It was a journey of about ninety miles,
undoubtedly performed on foot; but evidently it

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Online LibraryHenry WareThe life of the saviour → online text (page 3 of 15)