Henry Ware.

The life of the saviour online

. (page 7 of 15)
Online LibraryHenry WareThe life of the saviour → online text (page 7 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

who had come from other places to see with their
own eyes the wonders of which they had heard.
It is such that were impatiently waiting for him
on his return from Gadara, and formed the com-
pany that crowded his dwelling; as we have al-
ready remarked concerning the Pharisees and
doctors from Jerusalem. It is probable, also,
that the paralytic was brought from some other
place. All the circumstances indicate that he
and his friends were strangers at Capernaum.
Their impatience and eagerness are not like those
of persons dwelling in the same town, who could
have access to Jesus every day; but rather of
persons who have just arrived from a distance, and
cannot rest until their errand is accomplished.
This being so, we understcuid fully the feelings


with which the witnesses exclaimed, " We never
saw it on this fashion! " If they had been citi-
zens of Capernaum, it would not have been true.
Shortly after this, Jesus went forth again to the
side of the lake, and addressed the people there;
as he did in several instances. At this time, in
passing by the receipt of customs, (the booth or
office at which the taxes were collected, probably
from the vessels which traded at Capernaum,) he
saw Levi, the publican, who was also named
Matthew, sitting there upon duty, and called
upon him to follow him. Matthew accordingly
did so. As he resided in the same town, he was
undoubtedly already well known to our Lord; it
is not probable that Jesus would in this way sum-
mon any one, whom he had not previously known.
So it had been in the instances of Andrew and
Peter. The Evangelist does not state, that Jesus
had met them before he saw them at the lake;
yet we learn from John's Gospel, that he had pre-
viously known them in Judea. So also he had
undoubtedly been acquainted with Matthew, and
at this moment, only intimated to him, that the
time was come when he must be devoted exclu-
sively to his service. Matthew accordingly aban-
doned his office. On occasion of doing so, he
made a great feast at his own house, which shows

Matthew ix. 9. Mark ii. 13. Luke v. 27.


him to have been a man of some consideration
and property, to which he invited Jesus, and
many of his brother pubhcans, and other guests.

The pubhcans were officers employed by the
Romans for the purpose of coUectmg the revenues
and taxes. They were more odious than taxgath-
erers ordinarily are, because they were mostly
underlings in office, and the oppressive extortions
of underlings are proverbial. There was another
reason for the dislike borne them by the Jews,
namely, that they were, for the most part, then-
own countrymen, who were thought to be aiding
foreigners in the oppression of their native land.
Some upright and honorable men there undoubt-
edly were among them. Such was Zaccheus, of
whom we shall read by and by; and such was
Matthew; and we are informed, that there was a
greater readiness among men of this class to re-
ceive the teachings of Jesus, than among^ the
higher and more favored classes. 3Ia.t lev.^ pro-
bably invited them to meet Jesus at his table, in
order that they might have an opportunity to con-
verse with him, and thus perhaps be brought, like
himself, to acknowledge him. It was evidently in
the hope that he might benefit them, that Jesus
accepted the invitation; as appears by the answer
which he made to the Pharisees. These trouble-
some spies, who seem at this time to have come
up from Jerusalem on purpose to watch him.


complained of him for eating with pubUcans and
sinners. They intended thus to excite the preju-
dices of the people. Jesus answered them, that
he associated with them in order to do them good.
The more they were sinners, the more they needed
to be called to repentance. The righteous had no
need of him; it was these very sinners that re-
quired him. " They that are whole need not a
physician, but they that are sick."

When he had justified himself on this point, he
was immediately assailed on another. In that
age, as in all others, but perhaps in that more
than in others, great stress was laid on the exter-
nal forms of religion, on observances and ceremo-
nies. The Pharisees, who were a leading sect,
distinguished themselves by their strictness in
these particulars. They were strict in their fasts
and solemn in their demeanor, and contrived to
impress on the people an idea of their superior
sanctity. John the Baptist, also, had practised,
and had taught his disciples to practise, severe
mortification of body. Jesus encouraged in his
followers none of this external austerity. He
taught them, that religion is an inward affection
and a principle of holy living ; he required of them
to regulate their hearts and their lives, but impos-
ed on them no mere forms. This afforded an
obvious objection to his doctrine; and some of
John's followers took the present occasion to ask


him how it happened, that, while they observed
frequent occasions of fasting and solemn prayer,
he and his disciples observed none. Jesus an-
swered them, that he regarded fasting as an ex-
pression of sadness and mourning; that it would
be an unbecoming thing in his disciples, who had
no reason to mourn so long as he, their Master,
was with them; it would be time enough for them
to fast when he should be withdrawn from them.
Besides, it would be as incongruous to annex such
a mere form to a religious system like his, as it
would be to put new wine into old leathern bottles,
or to piece an old garment with new cloth. An-
tiquated forms in a new religion w^ould be only
injurious. The bottle must be adapted to the
wine, and the form to the system, or they cannot

While thus engaged, one of the rulers of the
synagogue, named Jairus, came to him, and fall-
ing down at his feet, entreated him to come and
save his dying daughter. The confidence which
was felt in his power is very strongly evinced by
the manner in which this respectable man ad-
dressed him; — " Come, and lay thy hand on her,
and she shall live." Jesus immediately arose,
and proceeded toward the house, followed by a
multitude of the people.

As he passed through the streets, another ex-
ample occurred of the extraordinary confidence


of the people in his divine power. A poor woman,
who for twelve years had been grievously diseas-
ed, and had tried every remedy in vain, said to
herself, " If I can but touch his garment, I shall
be whole." She did so, and was healed; and
Jesus commended her faith in presence of the

On arriving at the house of Jairus, he was met
by all the demonstrations of mourning which cus-
tomarily attended a Jewish death. He found a
crowd of people lamenting, and the hired minstrels
bewailing, and altogether what Mark calls a " tu-
mult." He immediately put them all out, and suf-
fered none others to enter with him the dwelling
of affliction and death, but Peter, James, and
John, who on this, as on certain other occasions,
were selected as the witnesses of his more private
hours. With them, and the parents of the de-
ceased child, he proceeded to the room where she
lay, spoke the word, and she returned to life.

This is the second miracle of raising the dead,
recorded by the Evangelists. It is remarkable
that out of the multitudes thus restored, only three
instances are specified in the history; and it is
pleasing to find in each of them a circumstance
of peculiarly tender interest, which may help to
explain the reason of their selection. By the first,

Matthew ix, 18 Mark v. 22. Luke viii. 41.
10* H


an only son was restored to the arms of a widowed
mother; by the second, an only daughter was
given back to her disconsolate parents; and by
the third, a brother, an only brother there is rea-
son to believe, was restored to his fond and con-
fiding sisters. It is delightful thus to see our
affectionate Lord carry his divine power into the
circles of private and domestic life, and in a man-
ner consecrate the pure relationship of home. A
prophet might have displayed his power in a thou-
sand ways even more striking than these; but
what sympathy and kind-heartedness, must have
belonged to him, who chose occasions on which
he could most signally bless the children while he
glorified the Father!

On the same day, Jesus gave sight to two blind
men, who came to him in the street as he return-
ed from the house of Jairus, and restored speech
to a dumb man who was thought to be possessed
of a demon. The Pharisees, meantime, still hung
around his path. They would probably have in-
terfered at the raising of the young girl, if they
had been admitted to the house. They now cav-
illed again, and suggested for the first time an
explanation of the miracles they witnessed, of
which they afterwards made great use. " He
casteth out demons," they said, " through the
prince of the demons."

It is apparent that the events of this day are


recorded with unusual minuteness. There is no
good reason, however, for supposing it any other
than a fair example of the manner in which the
days of Jesus were usually spent. It is possible,
that the great dinner given by Matthew on re-
signing his office as publican, may have caused
the several events connected with it to leave a
more distinct impression, and to be therefore more
particularly recorded. But what an idea does it
give of the activity and benevolence of our Lord's
ministry, to remember that such a day, thus
crowded with acts of kindness and wisdom, was
not remarkable above other days for the works it




In the last chapter we had occasion to notice
the circumstance, that many Pharisees and doc-
tors of the law had visited Capernaum for the
purpose of conversing with and watching Jesus.
The instances there given of the vexatious spy-
ing and cavilling, by which they endeavored to
perplex and thwart him, are but specimens of
what was frequently occurring. It may help us
to understand the opposition with which our Sav-
iour had to contend, and exalt our idea of the
magnanimity and meekness with which he endur-
ed it, to collect under one view the various inci-
dents of this nature which are recorded by the
Evangelists. To many of them, no definite
mark is affixed, by which we may ascertain when
or where they occurred. They are principally
related by Luke, whose Gospel, through a large
part of it, is a collection of discourses and inci-
dents, thrown together without any pretence of
chronological arrangement.* The present is a
fitting place for noticing several of these portions
of history.

* Chapters xi — xviii. The '' order " spoken of in Ch. i.
3. is not the order of time.


From the time that the Pharisees first took
offence at our Lord's teaching and baptizing in
Judea, they pursued him with unremitting hostih-
tj. It was probably owing to their influence at
Jerusalem, that he was prevented from exercising
his ministry in that city. Even at the festivals,
his visits had been interrupted and cut short by
opposition and open assault. They pursued him
into the country. Wherever he was, there were
scribes and Pharisees; wherever he went, they
followed him. And we are reconciled to the petty
persecution and unprincipled calumny with which
they harassed him, only by observing, that they
thus furnished opportunities for some of his most
delightful instructions, and served to display in
constantly new forms the wisdom and loveliness
of his character.

In several instances he was invited to dine at
the houses of these arrogant but disting-uished
men. It is reasonable to suppose that this was
sometimes done from motives of real respect; but
sometimes, also, from very different motives. It
seems rarely to have happened, that some one pre-
sent at such seasons did not take the occasion to
cavil or insult ; and the issue always was to bring
forth a new illustration of his doctrines and char-

Luke vii. 36.


One of the most affecting incidents of his life
occurred on one of these occasions. As he was
dining with a Pharisee, a woman of the city,
whose name is not given, and of whom nothing is
told except that she was a sinner, entered the
apartment where they sat, for the purpose of doing
him an act of honor. She brought with her an
alabaster box of precious ointment, such, proba-
bly, as it was customary to use for the purpose of
anointing the head, on occasions of special cere-
mony. She went behind the guests, who, instead
of silting at the table as we do, were reclined at
full length on couches, leaning on their left arms.
She thus approached the extended feet of Jesus,
intending to pour upon them this costly perfume.
So profusely did she weep from the fulness of her
feelings, that Luke expresses it by saying, " she
bathed his feet with her tears." She wiped them
with the hair of her head, kissed them, and poured
on them the fragrant preparation.

The Pharisee was scandalized at the scene,
and said within himself, " If this man were a
prophet, he would have known that this woman is
a sinner. " It was not in the heart of the Pharisees
to have sympathy or forbearance for those whom
they regarded as sinners. They esteemed them-
selves to be righteous, and despised others. But
Jesus was full of compassion for them, espe-
cially in their penitence; and he never appears


more amiable and heavenly, than in the replj
which he made at this time to the thought of the
Pharisee. He gently, but pungently, reproved the
spirit which actuated him, and vindicated the claim
of the sinful to compassionate regard. " Her
sins, which are many, are forgiven," said he,
" for she hath loved much." And then turning
to the weeping woman, he said, " Thy sins are
forgiven." Some of the company began to mur-
mur at this; but without taking notice of it, he
added, " Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."
We remark here, by the way, that this differ-
ence between the manner in which Jesus, and
that in which the Jewish leaders, felt toward sin-
ners and treated them, illustrates one of the char-
acteristic distinctions of his life. Without any
greater lenity toward crime, and with unspeak-
ably higher notions of moral purity, he united a
sympathy for the unhappy delinquents, and a com-
passionate tenderness towards them, altogether
foreign from the supercilious hardness of the self-
righteous Pharisees. He was touched with a
feeling of their infirmities, and never shunned them
when he could be in the way of doing them good.
Yet this beautiful circumstance was perverted
into a ground of accusation against him. "He
eateth and drinketh w^ith publicans and sinners,"
it was said; "he receiveth sinners, and eateth
with them;" "he is a friend of publicans and


sinners." To these accusations, which were in-
tended to cast obloquy on him in tiie minds of the
people, he repUed, that his very object was to
seek and save that which was lost, to call, not the
righteous, but sinners to repentance. And on one
occasion, he enlarged on this thought, and went
on, in several parables of most affecting beauty,
to picture forth the unchanging and impartial love
of the God who had sent him, and the inexhaust-
ible fulness of his mercy. One of these was the
parable of the Prodigal Son; — so familiarly known,
so universally admired, so full of delightful con-
solation and encouragement to the humble and
fearful penitent. Nothing could be more opposed
to the principles of the proud Pharisee, and noth-
ing more characteristic of the spirit of Christ and
his gospel.

On another occasion a Pharisee, with whom
he was dining, expressed surprise that he had not
washed before sitting down; a negligence, which
he, with his scrupulous observance of forms and
ablutions, accounted as nothing less than a sin.
This led Jesus to remark on the folly of laying so
much stress on outward appearances and merely
mechanical observances, to the neglect of inward
purity and important duties. And when a law-
yer in the company interrupted him, he extended

Luke xi. 37. xv.


his reproof to that class of men also. This brought
upon him a general attack from the scribes and
Pharisees present, who urged him vehemently,
and incited him to speak on many subjects; lying
in wait for him, says Luke, and hoping that he
would let something fall which might be matter
of accusation against him. It excites our admi-
ration of his wisdom, that he was always able to
avoid the snares which they thus laid for him.

On a certain sabbath, he dined with one of the
chief Pharisees, when the very purpose seemed to
be to watch him. This he perceived; but would
not let it stand in the way of his benevolence.
There was in the company a dropsical person,
whom he desired to restore to health. And as he
had had experience of the malicious construction
which these men put on his sabbath-day charities,
he turned to them, and asked, "Is it lawful to
heal on the sabbath-day? " They did not choose
to answer the question, but it prevented their op-
position at the time. It was on this same occa-
sion, that, unappalled by the presence of a com-
pany assembled around him as spies, he remarked
freely on the ambitious spirit displayed by many
among them, and gave one of his most striking
lessons on humility. He then turned to the mas-
ter of the house, and with the greatest freedom

Luke xiv. 1.


and plainness instructed him concerning real char-
ity and the duty of disinterested kindness; advis-
ing him to spread his table, not for his equals and
superiors who could honor him in return, but for
the friendless and suffering. This would be true
happiness; for though they could not reward their
benefactor, he should be recompensed at the res-
urrection of the just. So impossible was it for
Jesus to regard man as any other than an immor-
tal being! One of the company, affected by his-
holy words, remarked, in a tone different from that
in which the feast began, " Happy are they that
shall eat bread in the kingdom of God! " Upon
this hint, our Lord proceeded to recite that para-
ble, so full of direct and solemn admonition, which
describes those who would not come to the offered
supper, and whose places were therefore filled
by persons whom they despised. The tone and
purpose of the parable are such as to indicate
that this scene took place toward the close of his

The sabbath was one of those subjects to which
these rigid formalists often recurred in their ac-
cusations of Jesus. The liberty which he allowed
to himself and his followers on that day, seemed
to them profane. He was obliged to defend him-
self and his disciples for plucking and eating a

Matthew xii. 1. Mark ii. 2:^. T.uke vi. 1.


few ears of corn as they passed through the fields.
On this occasion it was, that he stated his doc-
trine on the subject in these emphatic words;
" The sabbath was made for man, and not man
for the sabbath; therefore the son of man is Lord
also of the sabbath."

But what is yet more remarkable, and shows
strikingly both their superstition and their enmi-
ty, he was obliged to defend even his miracles
against this charge of sabbath-breaking. It was
his heahng a man on the sabbath, which formed
the pretence for the first violent assault on him in
Jerusalem. The same circumstance was alleo-ed


against him when he healed the man born blind,
at the feast of Pentecost. So far was this irra-
tional opposition carried, that when he had done
an act of benevolence in the synagogue on that
day, the ruler of the synagogue cried out to the
people, with great displeasure; " There are six
days in which men ought to work; in these,
therefore, come and be healed, and not on the
sabbath-day." "Thou hypocrite," said Jesus;
" doth not each of you on the sabbath loose his
ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away
to water? And ought not this woman, being a
daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound,
lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond

John V. 9. ix. Luke xiii. 10. Matt. xii. 9.

Mark iii. 1. Luke vi. 6,


on the sabbath-day? " At this reply, all his ad-
versaries were ashamed, says Luke; as well they
might be. On another occasion, when he knew
that the Pharisees were watching him, he put
the same question before doing the miracle; and
when they made him no reply, it is not strange that
" he looked round on them with indignation, being
grieved at the hardness of their hearts." What
more likely to give indignant grief to a pure and
benevolent mind, than to perceive the best actions
misconstrued and perverted by bitter and malig-
nant prejudice? Instead of allowing themselves
to be convinced, the Pharisees thought only of
revenge ; and went out and held a council against

It was through such opposition as this, gratui-
tous and unprincipled, that our Lord was com-
pelled to pursue his trying way. Perhaps it was
never more disheartening than when these men
attributed his miracles to Beelzebub, the prince
of the demons. That he wrought the miracles,
they could not deny; but instead of allowing in
them the hand of God, they chose to explain them
away, by attributing them to demoniacal power.
This argued an obstinacy in unbelief, a determin-
ed hardness of heart, which must render them in-
capable of being convinced. It was the highest

Matt. xii. 22. Mark iii. 19. Luke xi. 14.


degree of wilful blindness and depravity. There-
fore, after showing how absurd it was to suppose
that the evil spirits would furnish him with power
to destroy themselves, he went on to show the
hopelessness of that mind which could make such
a suggestion. If they had spoken against him-
self, he said, it would have been pardonable; but
to ascribe his miraculous works to evil spirits, and
thus despise the divine agency which was manifest
in them, was an offence which could not be for-

It aggravated the sin, and rendered it a greater
grief to the feeling mind of Jesus, that these men
were at the same time calling upon him to show
them some sign. " Master, we would see a sign
from thee." As if all his wonderful works had
not been sign enough; as if they were willing to
believe, provided he would only give them sufficient
evidence. To such calls for evidence, made in
such a spirit, he had but one reply. It was such
a reply as their perverseness and hypocrisy de-
served. He referred them, darkly, under the im-
age of Jonah in the fish, to his future burial and
resurrection; and proceeded to upbraid in severe
i;erms their incredulity and impenitence.

When we thus observe the manner and spirit,

in which these men set themselves in opposition

to our Lord, we are not surprised that he often

:spoke of them with severity, and took pains to



unmask them to the people. He did this even at
their own tables. He rebuked them and expostu-
lated with them to their faces. He exposed them
in their true character to the people. He direct-
ed against them many of his most solemn para^^
bles. And in expressing his abhorrence of their
hollow-heartedness, pride, and oppression, all in-
dulged under the sanctimonious appearance of
religion, he used words of indignation, which on
no other occasion escaped his gentle lips.




We return to the regular train of the narrative.
Jesus had passed but few days in Capernaum and
its vicinity, when he left it for the purpose of mak-
ing another circuit among the towns and villages
of Galilee. This was probably in a different di-
rection from the former, and he was differently
accompanied. With the increased attention which
had been drawn to his ministry, the number of
his devoted friends and permanent attendants had
been constantly augmenting; and when he now
started forth on an excursion through the country,
we find him not only accompanied, as before, by

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryHenry WareThe life of the saviour → online text (page 7 of 15)