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land, and, like that, occurred just when the fruits
of the earth had been gathered in.

On the approach of this feast, when all men
were preparing to go to Jerusalem, the brothers
of Jesus urged him to accompany them. They
had no belief in his Messiahship, and they pre-
tended to accuse him of hiding himself from ob-
servation, because he had passed the summer
quietly in Galilee. " For," said they, " no man
doeth any thing in secret, and yet seeketh himself
to be known openly. If thou do these things,
show thyself to the world." But he replied to
them, that his time was not yet come; they could
go at any time; he was not yet ready. They ac-
cordingly departed without him; and he afterwards
followed them, privately, and apparently alone.
He knew the jealousies and enmities which had
already been excited, and he thought it prudent
to avoid the occasions of offence which might
arise from his travelling through the land when
the ways were thronged with people. We shall
have occasion to notice many remarkable instan-
ces of this reserve.

When the people were collected at the feast,
there was immediately great inquiry made for him.

Juhn vii.


They longed again to see the remarkable person,
who, at the two preceding festivals, had done such
wonderful works, and spoken such extraordinary-
doctrine, and who perhaps might prove to be
the Messiah. " Where is he?" said they. His
character and claims became the subject of eager
discussion. Some took his part, and vindicated
him. " He is a good man," they said, and by all
means to be trusted. Others opposed him, and
contended that he was deceiving the people. On
the whole, the public sentiment was divided; but
all these opinions were expressed in private con-
versation, for it had been decreed that all who
acknowledged his Messiahship should suffer
excommunication, and nothing came to an open
result, "through fear of the Jews," says the

In the midst of all this, when the festival was
about half over, Jesus arrived, and went directly
up to the Temple. In its sacred and crowded
courts, he felt himself safe, and spoke freely as
he had done before. What a sensation must his
arrival have occasioned! How eagerly must the
curious crowds have thronged about him! Some,
anxious to drink in the words of his divine wisdom;
some solicitous to entrap him: all burning with
vehement feeling, because they hoped, or feared,
that he might prove their long desired prophet.
Nothing seems to have surprised them more than


the dignity and wisdom of his discourse. They
knew where he had been bred, and what his edu-
cation had been; and they could not guess how
he should be so superior to other men. "How
knoweth this man letters," said they, "having
never learned?" Jesus gave them the only reply
which could be given, the only explanation which
was or could be satisfactory; — "My doctrine is
not mine; but His that sent me." He then went
on to expostulate with them on their injustice and
wickedness toward him at his last visit; defended
the act which had displeased them as a breach
of the Sabbath; and ended with the exhortation,
"Judge not according to appearance, but judge
righteous judgment."

It is evident from the account of the Evangel-
ist, that our Lord's address created a strong sen-
sation among the people. They began to debate
whether this were not the Messiah. Many be-
lieved on him; for, said they, very justly, can we
suppose that the Messiah, when he comes, could
do more miracles than this man has done.'* But
others doubted and denied, and said this could not
be he, because they knew whence he came, and
no one was to know whence the Christ should
come. For it seems to have been a common no-
tion among the Jews of that period, that the origin
of the Messiah would be unknown.

This agitation among the people made the lead-


ers and the Pharisees uneasy, and they thought it
best to put an end to it by seizing Jesus. It ap-
pears to have continued day after day, and they
couJd not tell what it might lead to. Therefore
they sent officers to apprehend him. But the re-
sult was very different from what they had antici-

The last day of the feast was a great day. It
was kept with extraordinary pomp and solemnity.
Besides the additional processions, already men-
tioned, another was formed of yet greater signifi-
cance. The people went out of the gate of the
city to the fountain of Siloam, and drawing its wa-
ters bore them to the temple. Part of this water
they there drank with loud acclamations, and
mingling the rest of it with wine, poured it out at
the foot of the altar of burnt-offerings; singing
meanwhile in loud chorus those words of Isaiah,
" With joy shall ye draw water from the wells of
salvation." The ceremony was in the highest
degree animating and impressive. At the present
time, it must have been more than ever striking.
For it was broken in upon by the voice of Jesus,
who stood and cried, " If any man thirst, let him
come to me and drink. He t-hat believeth on me,
as the Scripture hath said, there shall flow from
him rivers of living water;" — he shall be filled
with the spirit of holiness and truth, and from him,
like a fountain of pure waters, it shall flow forth


upon all around him. The consequence of this
address was, a new movement among the people.
Many were confirmed in the belief that this was
the Messiah. " Of a truth," they cried, " this is
the Prophet; this is the Christ." But others in-
sisted, that the Christ could not be a Galilean;
and thus opinions were still divided.

In the meantime, the officers, who had been sent
to seize him, were overcome with admiration at
what they saw and heard, and returned to their
employers without even making the attempt to
take him. "Why have ye not brought him?"
asked the Pharisees. The officers could only
reply, " Never man spake like this man." The
reply contains volumes. But it only irritated the
Pharisees, who gave vent to their feelings in vio-
lent language. "Are ye also deceived.^" said they.
" Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees be-
lieved on him? But this people, this rabble, that
knoweth not the law, is accursed." Here Nico-
demus ventured gently to interfere, and remind
them that no man was to be condemned without a
trial. But he only drew the storm upon himself.
What, said they, " art thou also of Galilee?
Search and look; for out of Galilee ariseth no
prophet." Here the matter ended, and the coun-
cil broke up. Jesus retired from the city, and
passed the night on the Mount of Olives.

In the morning he returned to the Temple.


The people again collected around him, and he
sat down beneath the portico, and taught. While
he was thus engaged, the scribes and Pharisees,
who had been defeated in their attack upon him
the day before, planned a new assault, and instead
of an open attack attempted to surprise him by-
artifice. They brought to him a woman who had
been detected in a crime; and addressing him in
very respectful language, asked him his opinion
whether she ought to be stoned agreeably to the
law of Moses. This they did, says the Evangel-
ist, " tempting him, that they might have whereof
to accuse him." For if he should say. Yes, —
then they hoped the people would do according
to his word and stone her; in which case, he
could be brought before the Roman power as in-
citing to tumult and sedition; for the Romans did
not allow the Jews the right to put any one to
death. And on the other hand, if he should say,
No, — they could exhibit him to the people as one
who set aside the law of Moses, and who there-
fore deserved no respect. Thus they thought
themselves sure of entangling him. But his di-
vine sagacity enabled him to escape the snare.
Instead of a direct answer, he stooped down, and
wrote upon the pavement with his finger, as if he
either did not hear them, or was engaged in con-
John viii.


sidering what they had said. When they urged
him for a reply, he lifted up his head, and said,
" He that is without sin among you, let him first
cast a stone at her." He then returned to his
employment. The accusers were confounded.
They felt conscience- stricken. And having no-
thing to say, they stole away one after another, and
left the woman alone. When our Lord perceived
this, his gentleness and compassion were display-
ed in his treatment of the woman, as remarkably
as his skill had been in baffling her accusers. He
would not assume the authority of the law to con-
demn her, and dismissed her with an admonition
to sin no more. " Hath no man condemned thee .'' "
he asked.— ^" No man, Lord." — " Neither do I
condemn thee. Go, and sin no more."

He then continued his conversation in the tem-
ple, witii the Pharisees and other Jews; reply-
ing to their questions, vindicating his character,
expostulating with them because of their sins, and
asserting his own high dignity and authority.
Some believed on him, many cavilled; and final-
ly, on their threatening to stone him, he hid him-
self and went out of the temple, and escaped from
their hands.

It is not perfectly clear whether the incident
next recorded by the Evangelist, occurred on the
same day with what we have just related. It pro-
bably did. As he passed through the streets of


the city after leaving the temple, he fell in with a
man blind from his birth; and, nothing deterred
by the dangers he had just escaped, he exerted
his miraculous power to give him sight. This was
a miracle particularly adapted to excite attention,
because none similar had ever been wrought. It
was without example in the whole history of the
nation. From this circumstance, as well as from
its taking place just at this time, it immediately
underwent a strict scrutiny. It was an open,
wonderful, unexampled display of power. The
enemies of Jesus saw that it was likely to produce
a great effect. They therefore made it their ob-
ject to discredit it, if possible.

They first tried to make it appear that no mira-
cle had been wrought. But the neighbors of
the man testified that he had been blind, and his
parents confirmed the testimony. " We know,"
said they, " that this is our son, and that he was
born blind; but by what means he now seeth, we
know not, or who hath opened his eyes, we know
not; he is of age, ask him." Thus there was no
doubt of the fact, though the parents dared not
say, as their son boldly did, that Jesus was a

The Pharisees next tried to prove, that, not-
withstanding this miracle, he was no prophet,

John ix.


He had broken the Sabbath. He was a sinner.
They knew nothing about him; thej knew that
God spoke by Moses, but as for this man, they
knew not whence he was. It was a bold and
generous reply of the poor man who had been
healed, '' Why, herein is a marvellous thing, that
ye know not whence he is, and yet he hath open-
ed mine eyes. If this man were not of God, he
could do nothing." At this the Pharisees were
irritated; " Thou wast altogether born in sin, and
dost thou teach us.'' " And then, finding that
they could neither prove the falsehood of the mir-
acle, nor persuade the people that it was not done
by divine power, they cast him out of the syna-
gogue; that is, they excommunicated him; — a
severe punishment, and the highest in their power
to inflict. They had already threatened it to all
who should confess Jesus to be the Messiah, and
it was the only answer they could make to the
reasoning of this poor beggar.

But the blind man was not wholly forsaken.
Jesus sought him in his trouble, and cheered him
by a kind word; — nay, did him the honor of ac-
knowledging to him, as he had yet done only
to the Samaritan woman, that he was truly the
Christ. So condescending and kind was our
gracious Master; and so, to the present day, does
his gospel stoop to the forsaken and lowly, and
whisper words of cheerful peace to their spirits.


From speaking to this humble and grateful in-
dividual, our Lord turned to address a word of
admonition to the people who stood by. "For
judgment 1 am come into this world," said he,
" that they which see not might see, and that they
which see might be made blind." This brought
him once more into collision with the Pharisees,
who ceased not to follow and persecute him. He
still answered them as before, boldly yet prudent-
ly, and closed his address with the beautiful and
affecting parable, in which he speaks of himself
as the good shepherd, who lays down his life for
the sheep. This parable, it is said, was not fully
comprehended by those who heard it; but it has
been full of a delightful meaning to believers in
all ages since, and, like several of our Lord's dis-
courses, was designed less for those around him,
than for those who should afterward believe in
him. As regards the immediate effect, St. John
says again, as he had said on other occasions,
that there was a division among the hearers. Some
cried out, " He has a demon and is mad; why do
you listen to him? " Others insisted, that his giv-
ing sight to the blind was a proof to the contrary,
for demons could not cure blindness.

Here closes the account of those memorable
scenes which took place at Jerusalem during his
visit at the feast of Tabernacles. They are full
of the deepest interest and instruction, and should


be studied diligently in the chapters of John's
Grospel, in which they are recorded at length. It
is impossible, in a work like the present, to eluci-
date them more particularly. I have only been
able to go into them so far as might disclose the
exact posture of affairs, the state of the public
mind respecting our Lord's character and claims,
the increasing interest with which his teaching
was attended, the industry and malice of his ene-
mies, and the way which was thus opened for the
greater activity of his ministry in time to come,
as well as the sufferings and violence with which
it closed.

It will be perceived that, thus far, the history
has been drawn almost exclusively from the Gos-
pel of John. We find nothing, since the baptism
and temptation, recorded by the other Evangelists.
The cause is plain. John was attached to our
Saviour from the first ; he probably accompanied
him on his visits to Jerusalem at the several festi-
vals, and was personally knowing to the scenes
which he describes there. Matthew was called
later; and he, therefore, as well as Luke and
Mark, relates little till after the appointment of
the twelve apostles, because until about that time
he was not an eye-witness. We learn, also, why
John relates little except what occurred at the
festivals. During those periods he was in his
Master's company; but in the intervals he return-



ed to his employment on the lake of Galilee, and
did not become a constant companion of Jesus
until some time after the feast of Tabernacles.
If it be asked, why, in the subsequent narrative,
he continued to confine himself to what occurred
at the festivals, the answer is obvious. The other
Evangelists, who wrote before he did, had related
all else that was important, and it was apparently
his plan to tell chiefly what they had omitted. Or
perhaps, as they had given chiefly their Lord's
ministry in the provinces, it was his plan to record
his ministry in the city. The circumstances here
mentioned are interesting in themselves, and they
tend strongly to prove the probable correctness of
the arrangement followed in the present work.




It was about this time, that John the Baptist
gave that offence to Herod, the tetrarch of GaH-
lee, which occasioned his imprisonment, and final-
ly led to his death. Herod had married Herodias,
the wife of his brother Philip. John censured
this as a sin ; and Herodias, angry at his boldness
and rebuke, instigated Herod to cast him into
prison. Herod himself, we are told by Mark,
had a great respect for John, and would willingly
have spared him.

When Jesus heard of this, he left Jerusalem,
and returned to Galilee. The ministry o" his
Forerunner was finished; and it was therefore
time to commence his own in a more public and
active form. Hitherto he had confined himself to
a few places. His labor thus far seems to have
been preliminary, a gradual preparation for that
zealous action which was to distinguish the later
months of his life. Hitherto his forerunner, John,
had been occupied in preaching and preparing the
way before him. But his mission was now ended;

Matthew xiv. 3., iv. 12. Mark vi. 17, i. 14.

Luke iv. 14, iii. 19.


and therefore, as Mark declares, Jesus came into
Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of
God, and saying, '' The time is fulfilled, and the
kingdom of God" is at hand. Repent ye, and be-
lieve the gospel."

Thus he passed on, preaching in the syna-
gogues, till he reached Nazareth, his own town.
Here too he went into the synagogue on the sab-
bath day, according to his custom. It proved to
be a memorable visit. He had been for some time
absent, and the report of what had taken place
during his visit at Jerusalem had undoubtedly
reached the ears of his townsmen. They were
naturally curious to see him on his return.
They were very incredulous that this humble me-
chanic, whom they had known from his childhood
as one of themselves, should turn out a prophet,
and excite the wonder and attention of the whole
people at the feast. They were eager to have the
matter explained.

The synagogue was the Jewish place of worship,
answering to our churches. The desk, or pulpit,
from which the law was read and explained, stood
in the centre of the building. The book of the
law was kept in an ark, or chest, at one end
(either the eastern end, or that which faced the
Temple,) and was brought from it, at the time of
worship, with great form. In front of this ark
were placed the seats for the elders, called by our


Saviour " the chief seats;" and facing them were
the seats for the congregation. The women sat
in a gallery apart, concealed from view by a lat-

The service of the synagogue, like that of the
Christian church, consisted of prayers, the read-
ing of the law, and the expounding it, or preach-
ing. It was the custom to read through their
;sacred books once every year, a certain portion
ibeing allotted to every sabbath. The Scriptures,
like all ancient books, were written throughout
on long strips of parchment, like long pieces
of narrow cloth. These were rolled upon round
pieces of wood, as ribbons are at the present day.
When a person read the book, he unrolled it as
he went on, and wound it up again on another
roller. So that when he stopped reading, and
laid down the book, it was partly on one roller
and partly on another; and when he took it up
again, and opened it, his eye fell at once on the
place where he had left off. Whoever therefore
was appointed to read the portion of the law on
the sabbath, found the place without difficulty, by
merely opening the roll. There were no regularly
appointed readers, but the rulers of the synagogue
called upon any competent person to read the
portion for the day.

When the rulers of the synagogue in Nazareth
saw Jesus come in, they gave the book to him


and requested him to read. Jesus took the
volume, and stood up. It opened of course, at
the stated place. It was that celebrated pas-
sage in Isaiah (chapter Ixi,) in which the offices
of the Messiah are described. We may imagine
with what breathless silence he was listened to, as
he read: — " The spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to
the poor, he hath sent me to heal the broken
hearted, to proclaim deliverance to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at lib-
erty them that were bruised ; to preach the accept-
able year of the Lord." And he closed the book,
and gave it to the minister, that is, the attendant
who brought it to him, and sat down. His sitting
down was a signal that he intended to speak.
And the eyes of all that were in the synagogue
were fastened on him, — eager to know what he
had to say respecting this prophecy. His first
words were, — " This day is this scripture fulfilled
in your ears." And he went on to prove and illus-
trate this in such a manner, that he excited their
admiration at the gracious words which he utter-
ed, and they expressed their amazement at hear-
ing such things from " Joseph's son." "Is not
this the carpenter," said they, " the son of Mary,
the brother of James and Joses and Juda and
Simon .^ and are not his sisters with us? " There-
fore they were offended at him, says Mark. And


when he went on to explain why he did not work
miracles there, as well as in other places, tellino-
them that their prejudices were such that it would
be of no use, that now, as well as in the days of
Elijah, there was more hope of the gentiles than
of persons like them; — they became greatly ex-
asperated. They rose up, sabbath as it was, and
thrust him from the city, intending to cast him
down from the brow of the hill on which the city
was built. But he passed through the midst of
them, and departed in safety.

Having thus escaped the violence of the popu-
lace, he proceeded to Capernaum, and took up his
abode there. This place became henceforth his
principal residence. Its precise situation is not
known; but it was on the western bank of the
sea or lake of Galilee, not far from the northern
corner. It appears to have been at this time the
home of Andrew and Peter, who had formerly
resided in the neighboring town of Bethsaida.
These men had not yet permanently attached
themselves to his company. They were still oc-
cupied at their own business, which was that of
fishermen on the lake.

It was while thus engaged casting their nets
into the water, that they were called away by
Jesus to be his attendants and ministers. They

Matthew iv. 13. Mark i. 16. Luke v.


were already well known to him, being two of the
five who had followed him from Bethabara to
Galilee. And now that he had arrived at the
important period of his ministry, when it was
necessary that he should be attended by persons
who might aid him and be competent witnesses to
the world of his life and teaching, these two were
the first that he selected for that purpose. They
readily left their business to devote themselves to
him; and their partners, James and John, sons
of Zebe.dee, did the same.

Thus provided with four permanent attendants,
our Lord prepared for the more vigorous promul-
gation of his religion. He returned with them to
Capernaum, and taught in the synagogue on the
sabbath. On that occasion, he for the first time
performed the miracle of casting out an unclean
spirit. This excited the strong amazement of the
people, and helped greatly to extend his fame.
On leaving the synagogue, he retired to the house
of Peter, whose wife's mother lay ill of a fever,
and he healed her by a word. The report of these
two. miracles being spread through the town, as
soon as the day was ended, the people thronged
to the house, bringing with them the sick of every
disease; and he laid his hands on them and healed

In this remarkable manner did he signalize
this first sabbath of his abode in Capernaum. It


was the beginning of that conspicuous mani-
festation of himself, by which the remainder of
his hfe was marked. It formed an important era
in his ministry. He seems to have regarded it as
such. And therefore, rising early in the morn-
ing, he departed into a solitary place for the pur-
pose of prayer to God. This was his custom
when about to undertake an action of special im-
portance; and he was now designing to follow up
the work he had begun in Capernaum, by an im-
mediate visit to other places in Galilee. AYliile
thus engaged, his disciples sought him out, and
entreated him to return to the town; for, said they,
*' all men seek thee;" so strong was the sensation
produced by the deeds of the preceding day. He

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Online LibraryHenry WareThe life of the saviour → online text (page 5 of 15)