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for that reason had avoided the city, except when
called thither by his duty to attend the religious
festivals. But now his danger took a new and
more formidable aspect. Formerly, it was the
Pharisees, the scribes, the populace, who threat-
ened him; now, it was the leading men assembled
in solemn council. The sacred Sanhedrim, the
venerable Council of Seventy, had decided that he
must be put to death. There was no longer any
hope that he could escape. But to avoid imme-
diate apprehension, and to reserve himself for the

John xi. 54.


Passover when the appointed time for his death
would arrive, he immediately withdrew from the
vicinity of the city, to a place called Ephraim.
How far distant this was, or how large a town, we
do not know. It is only said, that it was near
the wilderness, probably between Jericho and
Bethel, and that he resided there some time with
his disciples.

From Ephraim he appears to have returned to
Galilee; where we again find him, as before, fol-
lowed by multitudes, as he went about doing
good. On one occasion, they so pressed upon
him as he sat in the house, that he was unable
even to take his food. The crowd at this time
may have been occasioned, in part at least, by an
eagerness to hear a discussion relative to his
miracles, which was going on between him and
some scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem. The
nature of their objection, and the character of his
reply, were well adapted to excite the most
earnest attention. They have been related in
another connexion,* and therefore need not be
noticed here. But an incident occurred in the
midst of the conversation, which must not be
passed over in silence.

A report of what was going on at the house,

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

* Page 124.


reached the ears of the mother and brothers of
Jesus, who, it is reasonable to believe, had like
him left Nazareth, and taken up their abode in
Capernaum. They anxiously hastened to him;
for it was said, " He is beside himself." Findino;
the crowd so great, that they could not gain en-
trance, they sent in word that they desired to speak
with him; hoping in this way to release him from
a situation, apparently uncomfortable and perhaps
perilous. As the word was passed in through the
crowd, a woman in the company, hearing his mo-
ther named,* cried out, "Blessed is the womb
that bare thee! " Happy is the mother of such a
son! It was a sudden expression of a natural
feeling. But Jesus, who did not wish to have the
minds of his hearers diverted from the great sub-
jects on which he was speaking, replied, " Yea,
rather blessed are they who hear the word of God
and keep it! " Then, stretching out his hand
toward his disciples, he added, " Behold, my
mother and my brothers! For whosoever shall
do the will of God, the same is my brother and
sister and mother." When this was repeated to
his waiting relatives, it must have relieved them
from all apprehension. It possibly conveyed to
their minds something of a reproof for having al-
lowed themselves to be uneasy about him, and to

^ [A friend will perceive his own suggestion here.]


interrupt him in his duties, when they well knew
that it was his meat to do his Father's will.

The same day he went out to the side of the
lake, accompanied still by a great throng of peo-
ple. That he might the more advantageously
address them, he went on board one of the vessels
which lay there, and spoke to them from thence.
His discourse at this time was wholly made up of
parables; and, if we are right in the arrangement
which we have given to the history, it is a curious
question, why he commenced this mode of preach-
ing at so late a period of his ministry, and from
this time used it so much. For not only the
place here assigned to these parables indicates
that they were probably the first which he de-
livered; but the language of the disciples who
heard them, confirms the supposition. They
asked him, " Why speakest thou to them in para-
bles.^ " as if it were a new thing, a mode of teach-
ing to which they were not accustomed. Does it
not seem, as if he had become satisfied that the
plain, proverbial, preceptive method of instruction
hitherto adopted, was ineffectual to move and
persuade the gross minds of the people.'' They
did not, they would not, understand him. They
closed their minds against his true meaning, and
avoided the spiritual inferences and applications

Matt. xiii. I, Mark iv. 1. Luke viii. 4.


which he intended they should make. It was in
vain to deal plainly with men pertinaciously re-
solved against every view, but that sensual one
of temporal power which engrossed their whole
souls. He would therefore change his mode of
address. He would speak to the ears they had
closed in a corresponding style; he would employ
a hidden sense, which would be fully intelligible
only to those who came to him with fair and teach-
able dispositions. To his disciples, therefore, he
explained his parables, because they were willing
and desirous to learn; to the multitude who would
not learn, who cared for nothing but the outward
kingdom, he left them unexplained. This is in-
deed the reason for using parables, which he him-
self assigned in his reply to the disciples.

On the present occasion he delivered the fine
and instructive parable of the Sower; — a very
suitable one to form the beginning of this mode
of teaching ; for it described, in a striking manner,
the different characters of those by whom his doc-
trine had been hitherto heard, and the various ef-
fects it had had on various dispositions. To many
he had preached in vain, for their minds were
preoccupied v/ith prejudices, pleasures, or cares.
Some had been affected for a time, but had taken
offence and deserted him. Some had been de-
coyed away by a too great love of the world, and
some by fear of unpopularity and persecution.


Some had remained faithful and steadfast. All
these characters are exhibited in the parable ; and
we may suppose, that it was this observation of
the manner in which his own preaching had been
received, that led him to choose for his first lesson
on changing his mode of instruction, a subject so
striking in itself, and so applicable as well as use-
ful to all times and communities.

He then recited several parables illustrative of
the character and progress of his kingdom. The
first was that of the tares of the field, which he
afterward expounded in private to his disciples.
The others related to the growth and extension of
his doctrine, and strikingly manifest the confi-
dence which he felt in its final prevalence and
triumph. After returning home, he added several
others for the instruction of his immediate follow-
ers, designed to express the value of the object
to which they had devoted themselves, and to
teach the certainty of a future retribution.

After this, Jesus left Capernaum, and made
another visit to his own town of Nazareth, It was
about five months since he had there been assault-
ed and expelled by the citizens. It was now to
be seen whether the increase of his reputation
through the land, might not have prepared their
minds to receive him more favorably. But their
prejudices had not been removed. They could
not forget that he was one of themselves, and they


would not believe that their humble townsman
could be a prophet. " Is not this the carpenter? "
said they, "are not his brothers and sisters with
us?" A few only brought their sick to him; and
thus, because of their obstinate unbelief, at which
he is said to have wondered, he could do but few
miracles there. Thus he proved the truth of his
own saying, A prophet is every where honored,
except in his own country.

Matt, xiii, 53. Mark vi. i.




About this time took place the death of John
the Baptist. Herodias, wife of Herod, at whose
instigation he had been imprisoned, would wil-
lingly have put him to death in the beginning;
but Herod, who had a great respect for him, and
moreover knew how the people honored him,
would consent to do no more than imprison him.

Herodias was resolved to accomplish her pur-
pose at the first convenient opportunity. Such
an one presented itself on the birth-day of Herod,
when he gave a great entertainment to his lords,
and high captains, and the chief estates of Galilee.
She then sent in her daughter, Salome, to dance
before the king and his guests. This was a great
condescension on the part of this young lady, be-
cause public dancing was not considered becom-
ing in persons of rank. Hence it was the greater
compliment to the occasion; and Herod, in the
excitement of the moment, took an oath that he
would grant her any favor that she should ask.
She consulted her mother; and that cunning and

Mat. xiv. i. Mark vi. 14. Luke ix. 7.


revengeful woman bade her ask the head of John
the Baptist. Herod perceived the snare in which
he had been taken, and would gladly have retract-
ed. But he had bound himself by an oath, and
was urged on by those who sat with him at table,
and he therefore commanded it to be done. John
was beheaded in prison, and his head given to
Salome, who carried it to her infamous mother.
The crime did not go unpunished. In the first
place, Herod was defeated in battle by Aretas king
of Arabia, whose daughter he had set aside in
order to marry Herodias. Josephus declares, that
all the people regarded this as a judgment from
heaven for his treatment of John. Afterwards,
Herodias, being ambitious that her husband should
enjoy as high a title as her brother Agrippa, the
king, persuaded him to go to Rome and seek it
of the Emperor. But the Emperor, having rea-
son to doubt his loyalty, instead of advancing
him to dignity, banished him to Lyons, and then
to Spain. Such was the punishment which Prov-
idence brought upon the complicated wickedness
of this petty prince.

Herod appears to have been haunted and made
miserable by the consciousness of his guilt. We
read that when he heard the reports of the won-
derful works of Jesus, he thought it must be John
risen from the dead; and though his courtiers
endeavored to persuade him that it was rather


Eiias, or some other of the ancient prophets, his
disturbed fancy still represented him as the man
whom he had so unjustlv destroyed.

It seems at first view strange, that Herod should
now hear of Jesus for the first time, when he had
been for so long a period active in the province.
Tiberias, the seat of government, was not far
from Capernaum; and although it does not appear
that Jesus had visited that city, yet it is evident
that the reports concerning him must have reach-
ed it. It is probable, therefore, that during our
Lord's ministry thus far, Herod had been absent
from Galilee, It has been supposed by some,
that this was the season of his war with Aretas;
that it was his soldiers, marching toward Arabia,
who some months before had inquired their duty
of John the Baptist; and that it was immediately
on his return from that war, that he made his birth-
day feast, and i)ut the Baptist to death. If so,
then he had been absent from Galilee during the
whole of our Lord's ministry thus far; and this
explains why he has never been mentioned in
the course of the history, and why the fame of
Jesus was new to him. Others suppose that this
must have been the year when he made a journey
to Rome, In either case the difficulty is removed.
But if we should suppose that Jesus had been
preaching in Galilee two or three years, instead of
a few months, the difficulty would be insuperable


When Jesus heard of the death of John, he
immediately retired across the lake with his apos-
tles, Herod had expressed a desire to see him;
but he did not choose to put himself in the pow-
er of that cunning man, and therefore from this
time forward spent very little time in Galilee, or
indeed in any one place. He now retreated to a
desert spot in the neighborhood of Bethsaida, in
the dominions of Philip. The people soon dis-
covered whither he had gone, and went by land
to the same place " from all the cities." It was
impossible to avoid them, and he went upon a hill
and taught them, and healed their sick.

When the day drew toward a close, the disci-
ples suggested that the multitudes must be wearied
and faint, and that it would be well to send them
away to the villages for refreshment. But Jesus
chose the opportunity for a new display of his
power, such as had not yet been made, and such
as was likely to appeal to the minds of many who
had been little affected by his other works. It
is well worthy of observation, how he varied the
character of his miracles, that he might suit them
to every variety of disposition, and give to all ca-
pacities the opportunity to be convinced. On the
present occasion, he resolved to feed the multi-
tude himself, instead of sending them away. He

Matt. xiv. 13. Mark vi. 35. Luke ix. 10. John vi. 1.


accordingly directed liis disciples to arrange them
in companies of fifty persons, and make them sit
down on the grass. It was thus ascertained that
the number of people was about five thousand;
which gives us some idea of the magnitude of the
crowds which usually attended our Lord. It is
possible, that his being in a new place may have
called together many who had no previous oppor-
tunity of seeing the celebrated prophet; but oth-
erwise, there is no reason to suppose that this was
a larger number than frequently assembled round

However this may be, their astonishment and
admiration may well have been extrem.e, when
they found that they were thus seated on the hill-
side for the purpose of being fed by two fishes
and five loaves of bread; when they saw this
scanty pittance multiply as it passed through their
ranks; and, after their hunger was fully satisfied,
saw the Apostles gather up twelve baskets full
of the uneaten remnants. This new and signal
wonder excited them to a high pitch of enthusi-
asm. They were now sure that this was the Mes-
siah. They were sure there could be no risk in
proclaiming him such, for he would be able to
support any number of followers at his pleasure.
Perhaps they even fancied, that he designed in
this act to intimate his readiness to provide for
those who would adhere to him. At any rate,


they thought that now the hour was come, the
long desired hour. With one voice they declared
he should be King, and were ready to use violence
to compel him. When Jesus perceived this, he
immediately constrained his disciples, as Mark ex-
presses it, (thereby intimating that they were dis-
posed to join the multitude,) to get into the boat,
and commanded them to go to Bethsaida; — not
the town in whose neighborhood they were, but
another village "on the other side," just south
of Capernaum, called Bethsaida in Galilee. He
himself remained behind, and persuaded the mul-
titude to disperse. Then, it being one of the
extraordinary and trying moments of his life, he
returned to the mountain and prayed.

Meanwhile the night came on, and the disci-
ples, in their little boat, being detained by a con-
trary wind, had not reached the place they had
designed. The whole night was passed in a vain
attempt to resist the wind. At the fourth watch,
that is, about three o'clock in the morning, as
they were still toiling at the oars, Jesus who had
seen their distress from the land, approached them
walking on the water. At first they thought
it an apparition, and cried out for fear. But his
well-known voice reached them, saying, "It is I,
be not afraid." The ardent Peter, delighted to
behold his master and eager to embrace him,
asked leave to go to him on the waves. Jesus


said, "Come." But when Peter found himself
actually on the water, his courage failed, and he
would have sunk if his Master had not stretched
forth his hand and caught him, " Oh thou of little
faith," said he, "wherefore didst thou doubt?"
When they arrived on board, the wind ceased,
and they easily reached their haven.

They went ashore in the land of Gennesaret,
which was the name of a considerable tract of fer-
tile, populous country bordering the west side of
the lake. The tidings of his arrival spread rapid-
ly among the people, and it seemed as if they
could not do enough to testify their joy. They
sent out into all the country round about, and
brought to him in beds those that were diseased.
And wherever he moved, whether to cities, or vil-
lages, or the country, his way was thronged with
objects on which to exert his benevolent power.
They laid the sick in the streets, and, remem-
bering the woman who had been healed in the
streets of Capernaum, besought him that they
might touch if it were only the hem of his gar-
ment; and as many as touched him were made
whole, Tbere is no more lively description of
the sensation his appearance created and of the
wonderful works he did, than is found in this ac-
count of his visit to Gennesaret. In this manner


Matt. xiv. 34. Mark vi. 54.


he proceeded through the country till he reached

Here he was met by some persons whom he
had left the preceding day on the opposite side of
the water. They had been surprised not to find
him in the morning ; for they had seen the disci-
ples go away without him, and there was no other
boat at the place; — they could not conjecture how
he could have departed. But not finding him,
they went on board some vessels just arrived from
Tiberias, and sailed over to Capernaum to inquire
for him. They found him, to their no small
amazement, in the synagogue. He received them
coldly; he told them, that it was not in a right
spirit that they sought him, but merely because
they had seen the miracle of the loaves, and there-
fore trusted that he would support his followers.
He endeavored to lead them away from their
wrong notions respecting the Messiah. Some of
them asked of him a sufficient proof that he was
he, pretending that his miracle of the preceding
day was nothing in comparison with that of the
manna given by Moses. Others seemed more
docile, and begged him to give them the true bread
of which he spoke. But, on the whole, they
manifested so unteachable, prejudiced, and world-
ly a state of mind, they so carped and cavilled at

John vi. 22.


his expressions, that he did as he had before done,
clothed his ideas in strong figures. These they
chose to interpret literally, and took great offence
at thein. Insomuch that many, who had been ac-
counted his disciples, being now satisfied that his
character and purposes were wholly different from
what they had hoped, that he would not be their
king and was very rigid in his religious requisi-
tions, deserted him and went away. Their deser-
tion evidently affected him; and he turned to the
Twelve with something like strong feeling, and
said, " Will ye also go away? " But they knew
him too intimately to leave him. Though they did
not fully comprehend, they deeply reverenced and
loved him, and entirely believed in him. Peter
answered for them all, without hesitation, " Lord,
to whom should we go.^ thou hast the words of
eternal life; and we believe and are sure that thou
art the Holy One of God." Doubtless this ready
and hearty reply was soothing to his Master's
wounded feelings. But still there was sadness in
the thought, that even of these twelve all were
not to be trusted. True, said he, you believe in
me; I have chosen you; and yet one even of you
will be false to me; — " One of you is a devil,"
a false accuser, a traitor.




The desire, already mentioned, to avoid the
«nares of Herod, who had now returned to his
province, and whose capital was not far distant
from Capernaum, appears to have been the rea-
son why Jesus, immediately after the conversa-
tions just related, left his own town again, and
made a distant excursion, in a northerly direction,
to the borders of Tyre and Sidon. These were
places of great celebrity, lying on the shore of
the Mediterranean sea, near the extreme corner
of Palestine. They had been assigned, in the
original distribution of the country, to the tribe of
Ashur; but as the ancient inhabitants were never
dispossessed, they did not properly become Jewish
cities. It was not therefore for the purpose of
preaching the gospel that our Lord went thither,
for his ministry w^as confined to the Jew^s. It
must have been for some such cause as that w hich
has just been mentioned.

For the same reason it was, that, as Mark tells
us, he desired that no one might know he was

Matthew xv. 21. Mark vii. 24.

14* L


there. However, it was not possible that he
should be concealed; and a woman, whose daugh-
ter was suffering in a peculiarly distressful man-
ner, learning that he was there, made her way
to him, and earnestly entreated his compassionate
aid. He at first refused, because she was a Gen-
tile, and he was sent to the Jews only. When
she still insisted, and would not be denied, he re-
fused her yet more strongly, saying, that his bread
was for the children, and he could not give it
to dogs; a term by which we may suppose the
Jews were accustomed to designate the Gentiles,
Even this reply, harsh as it seemed, did not dis-
courage the persevering mother. It was not in-
tended to do so; but to draw forth and display
her faith. This it effected; and she made that
respectful and beautiful answer, which has always
been admired, and which won our Saviour's
admiration; — True, Lord, said she; the bread
is for the children; but the dogs may have the
crumbs which fall from the table. Jesus imme-
diately answered, " For this saying, go thy way;
great is thy faith." And for the reward of her
faith, she found her daughter healed.

No other incident during this excursion is re-
corded, nor are we informed how long a period
was consumed in it. And we have no ground on
which to build a conjecture.

Returning from the neighborhood of Tyre


and Sidon, he passed through parts of DecapoHs,
still out of the jurisdiction of Herod, and came to
the sea of Galilee. Here again crowds collected
about him, and he did many miracles among
them; one of which, the cure of a person deaf
and dumb, is particularly recorded by Mark,
After being with them three days, he took com-
jpassion on them, as it was an uninhabited place,
cand did for them, as he had, under similar cir-
cumstances, done for the people in the vicinity
■of Bethsaida; he distributed among them the
little food which his disciples had with them,
and, by miraculously multiplying it, satisfied the
hunger of more than four thousand persons. He
then dismissed them; and taking ship, sailed to
Dalmanutha and Magdala, These places, of
which nothing very material is known, were situ-
ated toward the southern extremity of the lake,
on the eastern side, nearly opposite to Tiberias.
Here those perpetual cavillers, the Pharisees, as-
sailed him, asking him for a sign from heaven.
This was their old refuge, — to pretend that they
would beheve on him, if they could but see a sign
from heaven; while yet they were disbelieving
and disparaging all the wonderful things he was
daily doing. What w^ould such men believe.^
Evidently nothing; and therefore, aware of their

Matt. XV. 29., xvi. 1 . Mark vii. 31., viii. 1.


unfairness and weary with their hypocritical im-
portunities, Jesus refused to gratity them; told
them that any man with his eyes open might
discern the signs of the times; and that no sign
should be given to so evil a generation, but that
of the prophet Jonah.

Leaving this place, he again took ship for the
purpose of crossing the lake. While on the pas-
sage, he alluded to what had just passed, and bade
his disciples beware of the leaven of the Pharisees
and Sadducees. And here he was obliged to ob-

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