THE FOURTH BOOK
How He lived nearly two years by the Lake of Galilee teaching great truths and doing great things, and how He founded His Kingdom of God.
Keep in mind that we are now come to a new and very important time in our Lord's life, His life in Galilee, a period of about a year and a half. This is the beginning of His public teaching about God's good news to men. Here come most of the stories that we know best in the Gospels.
A Picture of Galilee and the Lake
N OW you see where we are in our story. Jesus had decided to go North to Galilee to begin His great public teaching. (Look at the map.) Galilee is in the north, Judea is in the south. They are pretty much like Scotland and England in olden days. North was Galilee the highland province, like Scotland with its mountains and rivers and its brave highland people. South was Judea where Jerusalem was, and I don't think the people there were at all as interesting as those in the North. North and South were a bit jealous of each other.
I wish I could make you see Galilee where Jesus lived for about a year and a half and which was the scene of the stories in the Gospels that we know best. It would make things so much more interesting. Lately I have been travelling through Galilee, sailing on the Lake which Jesus knew so well and examining the ruins of the little town of Capernaum where He lived. It was very wonderful to me walking where Jesus walked, seeing what Jesus saw, and imagining in my mind Jesus moving through it all. It made the dear familiar story so much more real to me. Try if you can see it with me.
The country is not at all as bright and beautiful as it was in Jesus' day. The Turks have owned it for hundreds of years. The land was neglected. No one took care of it. The trees are cut down, the place looks desolate. So I have to think of it as Jesus saw it. Travellers of long ago have told us how it looked then. The country was well cultivated, it was thronged with bright villages. It was surrounded by rich Gentile nations who constantly travelled across it. The great white roads of the old world ran through it—the Way of the Sea that Isaiah tells of and the broad Eastern road from Arabia. And the great South Road going down to Egypt where long ago the Midianite merchants picked up Joseph on the way and sold him to Potiphar the captain of the guard, where merchant caravans with their lumbering camels, and soldiers and travellers from many lands were passing every day since the time of Abraham. Jesus could see them passing every day. Several of His parables show that He was thinking of the great white roads and the "far country" where they led to, the wicked cities where the Prodigal went.
So when you think of Jesus in Galilee, think of the mountain tribes in their gay, sunny land, of the flowers and fruits and the farmers at their work, of the men of all nations in their foreign dresses passing daily on the great white roads. Quite a busy, interesting life.
In the centre of it all you must see the Lake, the Sea of Galilee. How I watched out for it as I came up from Nazareth one day. I had never seen it before. It seemed much smaller than I expected. A lovely little lake down in a deep valley at the base of the mountains, 680 feet below the level of the ocean. It was curious to think that around that little lake happened the central story of the world.
It seemed to me just a beautiful, lonely lake. But in Jesus' day it was not lonely. In the lands now bare of trees were pleasant woods. Where marshes are now there were lovely gardens. Where a few poor ruined little villages stand to-day was a fringe of prosperous little towns around the Lake. I saw that day but a few lonely boats on the water. In Jesus' day there were a busy fishing fleet and king's barges and a crowd of gay pleasure boats from Herod's royal town of Tiberias and the lake towns. Josephus, a great Jewish historian who lived there, tells of tropical fruits and trees of many climates bearing fruit and flowers. That is the sunny picture that belongs to the story of Jesus. That is the picture that I tried to keep in mind as I sailed on that lake with a big Jewish fisherman beside me who made me think of St. Peter pushing his clumsy oar.
Now find on the map the place where the little town of Capernaum stood on the western shore of the Lake (on the left-hand side in my picture). This is very important, for it was here that Jesus made His home in Galilee. You remember the four towns in His story. BETHLEHEM where He was born, NAZARETH where He grew up, JERUSALEM where He died, and CAPERNAUM His home by the Lake in Galilee. When I travelled last year over all that country, I was greatly interested in Capernaum by the lake-side, though the old town has been destroyed long ago and we could only find the ruins of the old houses and the pillars and parts of the synagogue where Jesus preached. But all around the country was unchanged since Jesus' day.
I stood there by the shore just where He used to sit in His little boat and teach the people crowded on the beach. I could imagine how Capernaum looked in His day. There on the slope was the Roman barrack where the good centurion lived, that heathen man whom the people praised before Jesus "for he loveth our nation and hath built us our synagogue." And that white synagogue that he built on the village street, and outside the village the rich people's homes whom Jesus knew, and down near the shore the little shops and the fishermen's houses, and the fishing boats with their rough brown sails, and the great white roads leading away into the far country. The Roman Emperor made these roads and took taxes to pay for them as travellers passed, and there where one of the white roads touched the Lake was the Roman custom house for collecting these taxes, where one Matthew whom we know sat at the receipt of taxes. Peter's house was somewhere down by the water. This would be a holy spot if I could find it, for it was in one of its little rooms that Jesus lodged whenever He was in Capernaum.
All the old familiar stories in the Gospels began to come back into my mind, and somehow they all seemed more real to me. I felt as if I could see Jesus moving about. I could see the high ground across the Lake and the country place where He went when He was tired and used to say to His disciples, Let us go across to the other side. Somewhere there on that "other side" He continued all night in prayer to God. There He found the poor lunatic wandering among the tombs. Down these slopes the herd of swine "ran violently down a steep place and were choked in the sea." There were the moors famous in Jewish history, where Sisera hurried to cool his parched throat at the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. There was the place where Jesus fed the five thousand people who followed Him one day when He took His tired disciples on holiday. "Come apart with Me," He said, "into the country place and rest awhile."
Try to get that whole picture clearly in your minds. The busy little fishing towns with the boats on the strand, the dark blue lake and the rough country at the farther side, and you have the picture of the central story of the Gospels when Jesus came to Capernaum.
When Jesus Came to Capernaum
W E are now ready for the story, How Jesus came to Capernaum. When He came up with His young disciples from the South after John was put in prison, I think they parted at the Galilee border. The young fishermen had to go home to their fishing on the Lake to wait there till He came, and Jesus seems to have wandered alone in Galilee for some weeks.
One day He came to the village of Cana. I feel sure that He went to stay with Nathaniel. You remember "Nathaniel of Cana of Galilee" who had been praying under the fig tree when he first met Jesus. And don't you think, too, that He got a delightful welcome from that little bride of Cana at whose wedding He had turned the water into wine a few months ago?
One day while He was there, there came driving post-haste into the village an officer of King Herod. Twenty miles off in Capernaum his little boy was dying. He had heard the talk in Capernaum that Jesus was coming. But that would be too late for the dying child. I can imagine the child's mother crying to him, "O don't wait. He is at Cana already. Who knows but He might come to save our boy!" Can't you see him dashing into Cana with his steaming horses? "O, Sir, my little boy is dying. Could you come and save him?" Jesus looked into his tortured face and spoke to him. But the man cannot listen. "O, Sir, come down ere my child die!" Jesus could not resist that. But He did not need to go. In a moment His thought of power went out to that sick-room in Capernaum and healed the child, and He turned quietly to the poor agonized father. "You may go home now," He said, "your child is cured."
Next morning, as his reeking horses got in sight of Capernaum, he was met by the joyful message from his wife. "When did it happen?" he asked. "Yesterday, Sir, at the seventh hour the fever left him." And the father knew that at that very hour Jesus had said to him, "Your boy is cured." And himself believed and his whole house. Don't you think Jesus would have had good friends in that officer's family when later He came to Capernaum?
A few days later Jesus followed that father on the Capernaum road. I was thinking of that story when I was there, and I felt a great desire to go over the same road following the foot-steps of Jesus. I came up from Nazareth and passed by Cana, now a poor little ruined village, and followed right on imagining Jesus before me walking on that Capernaum road. It is a rough road through the hills. Some miles on an opening in the hills suddenly shows the beautiful Lake of Galilee lying below, and the place of Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum on its western shore. I thought of Jesus going down that hill road. I pictured to myself Peter and Andrew and John meeting Him on the road, and the Capernaum townspeople staring and gathering in groups as they watched their neighbors coming in with the great Stranger. And Peter taking Him to his home by the Lake and settling Him in the little room they had so lovingly prepared for Him. So I could see the whole story, How Jesus came to Capernaum.
Preaching in the White Synagogue
I HAVE told you how I came down one day by the Capernaum road thinking of that day 2,000 years ago when Jesus had walked that very road before me. Then I walked by the Lake and sailed on its waters with fishermen dressed like the disciples long ago. My mind was still full of the stories about Jesus. In the evening I got across to where Capernaum stood in His day, but there were now only ruins of old houses to be seen, and the pillars and part of the walls of the ancient synagogue which the Roman captain built and where Jesus preached to the people on His first Sabbath day in Capernaum. It was curious to think of Jesus touching these very pillars and stones which I touched and of His voice sounding among them in the wonderful old days.
Naturally I thought of the Bible story of the first Sabbath when Jesus preached in this old synagogue. Of course there would be a crowd, for the people knew that the great Stranger was in town, and of course they expected He would be asked to preach. I could see in my mind the village people that morning on every path that led to the new white synagogue. Not very different, except in dress, from the people in our day in any country town going to church. The farmers and fisherfolk coming with their families. Old Zebedee the fisherman, awkward in his Sabbath clothes, with his wife and his two big sons, James and John. Andrew walking with Peter and probably Jesus walking with them. And Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, and Herod's officer whose son had been healed, and surely with him the mother of that child to see and hear Him who had saved her boy. The village streets were thronged and bright with colors. The people were hurrying to be in time, for they expected a crowded church.
Now I see the crowded little church and I hear the prayers and the Jewish creed and Jesus joining with the others in the psalms. Then I see the ruler of the synagogue reverently bringing out the Roll of the Law and the Roll of the Prophets. This is the place for the sermon and he looks at the Stranger in Peter's seat. "Sir, we would like you to preach to the people."
So Jesus comes forward through the crowded church and begins to tell to that eager people His "good news of the Kingdom of God." We have no account of the sermon but I read, "They were astonished at His teaching, for He taught as one having authority and not as the Scribes."
But He never got that sermon finished, for in the midst it was interrupted by a poor lunatic who had got in, a man possessed with an evil spirit, and he began to shout and frighten the people, crying out, "Go away, go away, Thou Jesus of Nazareth. I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God!" So Jesus had to stop and quiet the people, and then He calmly looked on the poor lunatic and with a word cast out the evil spirit and cured the man. And the people were all amazed at His mighty power. But that lunatic had stopped the sermon.
That Sabbath was a day to be remembered. Jesus walked home from church with Peter to their Sunday dinner. But the Sunday dinner was not ready. They found the housekeeper, Peter's wife's mother, suddenly taken sick with a fever and Jesus laid His hand on her and healed her.
But a more interesting thing happened in the evening. You remember one of our favorite hymns,
It tells about this Sabbath evening. Those in Peter's house could hear hurried footsteps outside and eager talking and the sound of a gathering crowd, and when they looked out "behold the whole village was gathered together at the door." Along the waterside, among the boats and brown nets were the fevered bodies lying on their mats, and the mother with her pining baby, and a rough man leading his blind boy, and a lunatic held by strong hands. It was a sad sight for Jesus to see, but a touching, beautiful sight too. I think He just loved to see all that tender affection and sympathy of the people for their sick. God always loves to see that in people. It makes them more like to Himself.
So you can see Jesus taking up a sick baby in His arms while the sobbing mother kneels before Him and a boy on his crutches is hobbling up to Him. And the blind people are reaching out their hands. And the fevered people are eagerly waiting their turn. And His heart went out to them and He healed them all. He just loved doing that.
Surely He was tired as He lay down on His mat in Peter's room that night with the pleasant feeling that He had left so many happier and better. He wanted sleep and surely He got it, but He wanted something else more. So a great while before day Peter heard Him steal out of the house, and when he followed Him he found Him kneeling on the bare hillside resting His soul in prayer and talking to the Father in Heaven. That was His habit all His life. And He tells us to get the habit of it too if we would be strong and happy, the habit of saying our prayers to God.
The Man Who Came through the Roof
I MMEDIATELY after this famous Sabbath Jesus went away preaching through Galilee, and when He came back the people came crowding around Him. St. Mark says that immediately "it was noised abroad that He was home" (R. V. margin). You see, Capernaum is already regarded as "home."
Here comes an interesting story when another sermon of Jesus is curiously interrupted. Jesus is teaching in a crowded upper room and the people outside, who have heard that He is home, are crowded all around waiting to see Him. One could not get even near the door.
Now down the village was a poor paralyzed man on his sick-bed. There is reason to think that he had brought this sickness on himself by a sinful life. Probably he had gone away over the great white roads to a wicked heathen city, as the Prodigal son did, and there in the "far country" had ruined his health by a life of sin. Now he is miserable about his sin as well as his sickness. He thinks God could not forgive a man who had sinned so badly and probably made others sin too. And nobody, he thinks, could cure a cripple who could hardly move his limbs. So he must die and be punished by the righteous God. He is very sorry for the past but it is too late to be sorry now.
But he has a few old comrades who care for him, and one day they came to tell him of the town talk that "Jesus is home." "Jesus," they said, "has cured diseases worse than yours and Jesus is most kindly when people are most miserable. Come on, let us carry you to Him. Who knows what may happen?"
So they bring him on his stretcher. But they cannot get
even near the door for the crowd. They might try again
So came a curious interruption to the teaching of Jesus in that room inside. A noise in the roof, the tiles stripped away, the light shining in, and Jesus looks up to see four brown sailor faces looking eagerly down with their four cords tied in sailor knots at the corners of a mattress. And down through the roof swings the poor frightened paralytic, down to the very feet of the Lord. I can imagine His good-natured smile at the kindly trick. "Jesus seeing their faith," says the story. He loved to see the unselfish affection for their friend, but He specially liked to see people trusting Him and determined not to be put off.
So He looked into that white face at His feet, and through the sad eyes, so wistfully calling to Him, He could see into the deep sorrow behind. Ah, Jesus knew what was troubling him most. "Cheer up, my son! Be of good cheer!" That was His favorite word to despairing people always. "Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee!"
That is how I know that the man was troubled about his sins. Jesus would never say this to him otherwise. You can see the startled wonder of the man. "Who is this that knows my inner thoughts and puts his finger right on the hidden pain?" Something in Jesus' look made him feel himself forgiven and peace came to his poor miserable heart.
But if he was surprised, everybody else was more surprised. The man had come to be healed of his disease. Why should Jesus only talk of forgiving his sins? Ah, they did not know what Jesus knew about the man's secret sorrow. And they did not feel what Jesus felt, that to cure his soul was more important than to cure his body—that to make a man a good man was more important than to make him a well man. And they did not know who Jesus was and what right He had to forgive sins.
So they were puzzled and angry and suspicious. "This man blasphemeth. Who can forgive sins but God alone!" And Jesus knew their thoughts. "You think I have not power to forgive sins." Then He turned to the poor cripple at His feet. "Arise, my son, take up thy bed and go home!" And immediately a new power came to that poor crippled man and "he arose and took up his couch and went forth before them all."
And the people were all amazed and glorified God saying, "We never saw it in this fashion."
Cannot you imagine the delight of that poor cripple and the passionate love he would feel towards Jesus? And do not you feel pretty sure that he would never forget that day when he came down through the roof, and that on all the days to come he would be a happy, faithful servant of God? That was how Jesus healed people's bodies and souls.
How Jesus Chose His Apostles
J ESUS, you know, had come down from Heaven to show what God is like and to tell the good news of God's fatherhood and God's kingdom. But one man could not go everywhere, and besides that in two years time He was going back to Heaven. So all the while He was looking out for a little band of faithful men whom He would train and keep close to Him and then send out with His message. These we call Apostles. Let us see how He got them.
One morning in Capernaum, after a wild, stormy night, He was out at the lakeside with a crowd around Him. A little way down were two fishing boats all battered after the night, with their nets torn and covered with sand and the poor fishermen trying to mend and clean them. They were very discouraged. They had been out all night and had caught nothing. Now four of these fishermen were already close friends of Jesus, the friends He had made that day six months ago by the Jordan. You remember how two of them, Andrew and John, had spent that wonderful evening with Him in His little lodging and learned to admire and love Him so dearly, and how they had brought to Him their brothers, Peter and James. Nobody knew and loved Him as they did.
As the people were crowding Him too closely, He called Peter to bring round his boat and then they pushed out a little from the land and He taught the people out of the boat. And then something happened. He was thinking of the discouraged fishermen who had caught nothing. He knew what that meant to poor working men.
"Now put out," He said, "into the deep water and let down your nets."
"Master," said Peter, "it seems little use. We have toiled all night and caught nothing. However, since You say it, we will let down the net."
Then in a moment they were staring in astonishment. "They enclosed a great multitude of fishes and the nets were breaking. So they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they filled both the boats so that they began to sink." And great awe and wonder fell upon the men. They knew that a great miracle had happened and Peter fell down at Jesus' knees saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"
Of course he did not want Jesus to leave him, but he was so astonished and felt so sinful and ashamed to be in company with One so great and wonderful. But Jesus said to him, "Fear not, Peter, from henceforth thou shalt catch men instead of fishes." Then He told Peter, and Andrew his brother, and told James and John in the other boat, that He had chosen them to be His first helpers in His great mission to the world.
A few weeks later He chose another man to add to these four. And I don't think the four liked it. For this man was of a class that all good Jews hated and despised. He was one of the "publicans" or tax-gatherers. The Roman emperor, their tyrant master, ordered all Jews to pay taxes to him, and these publicans were collecting those taxes for him from their own friends, and many of them were dishonest and collected too much and kept it for themselves. So you see people would be surprised and displeased that Jesus should choose a man of that class.
But Jesus knows our hearts. He knew this man Matthew the publican was not like the rest. Matthew was surprised and pleased that Jesus was friendly with him when even his own family would not speak to him. He had never met anyone like Jesus before. Soon he grew to love Him and to wish to be a better man and to listen to His teaching near the tax office on the great white road.
I think he was always ashamed of his trade when Jesus came in to talk with him. I picture to myself one day when Jesus was in the office, a poor fisherman coming in who could not pay his taxes and that he begged Matthew to give him time to pay, not to sell his boat and nets or the cottage that sheltered his wife and child. I think Matthew wished that Jesus were not in the office that day. But he would not promise. If he were too soft with people he would never get on. And I imagine Jesus as He went out just looking at him as He looked at Peter the night of his denial—and that was all.
But after the fisherman had gone, I think somehow Matthew did not feel quite happy. And that night the thought of the fisherman's wife and child came between him and his sleep. And I do not think he sold the boat and nets next day. And I think he grew ashamed to meet Jesus and gradually began to hate his trade and to wish he could win the approval of Jesus of Nazareth.
He did not think that Jesus knew all these good thoughts of his. So you can imagine his surprise when Jesus walked into his tax office one day and said, "Matthew, I want you to follow Me and be one of My apostles!" In his surprise and delight he gave up at once all his money-making business. "He arose and left all and followed Him," who was so poor that He did not know where to lay His head. He never could forget his gratitude to Jesus for choosing him, a poor despised publican. And I think he was always ashamed of his old bad trade. He knew that partly on account of him Jesus was sneered at as "the friend of publicans." And long afterwards he wrote his "Gospel of St. Matthew," and in his list of the apostles he humbly writes down his own name as "Matthew the publican."
So now Jesus had five apostles to begin with. We do not know how He chose the others. I wish I knew the story of the day when He chose Judas Iscariot, the awful traitor who sold Him to His enemies. We shall meet him in the story later on. I wonder why Jesus ever chose him. And I wonder why Judas ever cared to be with him. I wish I knew that story.
The Story of Two Dinner Parties
I THINK it was rather a brave thing that Matthew did when he was going away to follow Jesus. He gave a farewell dinner to the clerks in his office and to all his publican friends to say good-bye and to tell why he was going. He was not ashamed to tell his old comrades that he had become a religious man, though some of them might sneer at him for it. I don't think they did though. Especially when he told them that he had dared to ask Jesus to the dinner and that Jesus was coming! I think that greatly surprised and pleased them. Just think of it! This great man, this holy prophet coming to dine with them as friends—publicans hated and despised, whom decent Jews would not even speak to in the street!
Next day came the dinner. A wonderful dinner, with Jesus sitting as a pleasant friend with publicans and outcasts. I see Him sitting beside Matthew, dipping with him in the dish. I hear Him joining pleasantly in the talk at the table, and somehow the guests were not afraid to talk to Him. Somehow they felt that He liked them and enjoyed being with them, that, bad as they were, He saw some good in them. And all the good that was in them rose up in their hearts to meet Him, and I am sure every man at Matthew's table that day wanted to be a better man while he was there with Jesus.
Next day the priests and Pharisees heard of this dinner. They were angry and puzzled. "Why," they asked, "should a holy prophet like to be with such people?" I think it was a still stranger thing that such people should like to be with Him. The whole story of Jesus shows that publicans and outcasts liked being with Him. I read afterwards that "the publicans and sinners drew near unto Him," and that "the common people heard Him gladly." Why, do you think? Ah, because they saw that He cared for them. He made friends with them. He opened His heart to them. And all the scolding and warning in the world would not do them as much good as the feeling that He cared. Always remember that He was God. This is God's heart, God's feelings. Whenever we are asked what God is like, we can only point to Jesus. That is what God is like.
Later on came the other dinner. After one of His busy days, Jesus was invited to dine with a rich man, Simon the Pharisee. He would walk from Peter's house through the narrow streets, past the new synagogue up to the Upper Town where the rich people lived. I can see the fine dining-room and the wealthy guests and the servants in attendance. But I am not interested in them. I am thinking of a strange thing that happened. When dinner was nearly over everyone was startled by the sound of a woman crying, and there at the feet of Jesus knelt a poor girl sobbing her heart out, "wetting His feet with her tears and wiping them with the hairs of her head."
Simon the Pharisee was very angry. He knew her as a girl in the town, a girl of bad character. How dared she intrude into his respectable house! He thought Jesus did not know about her. But Jesus did know all about her. I think of the miserable girl in the weeks before, lonely and forsaken, thinking of her sin, thinking of the innocent old home amongst the hills, and the old father and mother whom she dared not face any more, and the God whom she dare not pray to any more. No decent person would speak to her, there was no pity for her, no future, no hope here or hereafter. Until one day she had met Jesus. Perhaps she had heard Him speak of the tenderness of God seeking His lost sheep until He find it, and ventured to tell Him of her sin and her sorrow. He was gentle and kind with her. He told her of forgiveness, told her to hope.
I suppose she was thinking of all this when she crept in to Simon's feast. But Simon was angry. He could not understand. Then Jesus said to him, "Simon, let Me tell you a story. There was once a rich man who had two debtors who owed him money. One owed five hundred pence, the other owed fifty. But neither of them had money to pay. So he forgave them both. Now, Simon, which of them do you think would love him most?" "I suppose," said Simon, "the man to whom he forgave most." "You are right," said Jesus. "Now, Simon, you think that God has not much to forgive you. This poor girl thinks that her sin is so bad that God can hardly forgive her at all. So she loves much more than you do." Then He laid His hand on the poor sobbing woman at His feet. "My child, your sins are forgiven you. Go in peace."
So she went out, and I'm sure she went in peace. God had forgiven her. She would live for God in the future and all her life she would never forget what Jesus had done for her.
Two years later in this story we shall see a woman with breaking heart watching Jesus die on Calvary. Caring not for mockery or insult, she follows His dead body to the grave, and was first at that grave on the Easter morning, while it was yet dark, and saw the first sight of the risen Lord. Jesus saith unto her, "Mary!" And she fell at His feet. "My Master! My Master!" Many people believe that this was the girl who crept in to Simon the Pharisee's dinner, who is called in the Gospels Mary Magdalene.
Pictures of a Day with Jesus
W HAT did the Lord Jesus do every day? Of course, different things on different days. But you would like to watch Him for one whole day, and St. Mark gives us the story of one of these days. It begins in the early morning.
A lovely spring morning about March in the year A.D. 28. He is down by the lakeside with a crowd pressing on Him so that He has to get into a boat off the shore and use it like a pulpit to speak to them on the land. He sits silent for a while watching a farmer on the hillside sowing his seed, and the crowd turns to watch with Him.
He bids them notice that some of the seed falls on the hard pathway and is picked up by the birds. Some falls on thorny ground where the thorns will spring up and choke it. Some falls on shallow ground where the hot sun will scorch it as it grows. All that seed is lost. But some of it falls on good rich ground where it will bring forth good fruit.
Jesus said, That is like Me and like all preachers. We are sowing in men's hearts God's good seed, God's happy message. But some of you are not attending much and the seed is lost, as on the hard pathway. Some of you do attend, but by and by the thorns spring up, the cares and riches and amusements of life make you forget; and some are quite eager at first, but afterwards, when people dislike them or laugh at their religion, it all dies out. But for all of you who are really in earnest and receive this seed in an honest and good heart, it will bear great fruit and make you good and brave and happy children of God. That is how Jesus used to teach. Instead of preaching long sermons, He had the interesting habit of little short stories like this which would stick in people's minds.
Then He went up to Peter's house for mid-day dinner. We are not told about the afternoon, but I suppose He was out again teaching among the crowds. Now it is late evening and He is growing tired. He looked on the cool waters of the Lake. "Bring out the boat," He said, "and let us cross to the other side." I don't think Peter quite liked the look of the sky. But out they went, seven miles across in the teeth of the wind, and Jesus was so tired after His day that He fell asleep in the stern. And as He slept the spray was wetting Him and the wind was rising and the storm clouds were gathering black across the water. Soon the fierce storm broke, for this is a dangerous lake when the wind comes rushing down from the mountains. They were in serious danger. But the Master was sleeping through it all.
At last even these fishermen, accustomed to storms, grew frightened and called to Him. Already they were learning to turn to Him in every trouble. Quietly He awoke and rebuked the winds and said unto the sea, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. And the men wondered and said one to another, "What manner of man is He that even the winds and the sea obey Him!"
The storm during the night had already driven the boat out of its course down to the shore where the rough Gadarene people lived. So in the dim morning light they land near an old graveyard. But scarce have they landed when they hear horrible cries among the graves and a big, murderous lunatic, stark naked, clashing his broken chains, is rushing down upon them. They know who he is, "the madman of Gadara," a man with an evil spirit in him who lived among the tombs, and no man could bind him for he broke the chains asunder, and no one had power to tame him. And always in the tombs and in the mountains, night and day, he was crying out and cutting himself with stones
Everyone feared this wild madman and would not go near the old graveyard; but Jesus had deep pity for him. He called the fierce creature to Him and with a word He cast out the evil spirit. Instantly the man grew quiet. His whole appearance changed, and the people who came up saw the Madman of Gadara sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And with grateful heart he went about everywhere telling what Jesus had done for him, and all men wondered.
Now they are in the boat again sailing for home. They see a big crowd watching on the Capernaum shore. News had come in about His stilling the storm. Probably some early boat had told of the Madman of Gadara. So it was an excited crowd that waited, parked so close that He can hardly get through. There is a man in that crowd struggling through to meet Him. He had been there for hours, hurrying to and fro between a sick-room and the shore. "O Master, my little daughter! She is dying! Could You come and save her?"
Probably Jesus knew the child. It did not take Him long to know children, and this poor father was Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue where Jesus used to preach on Sabbath days. So He went with him and the people crowded after Him through the narrow streets. A sick woman, who had been twelve years suffering, reached out her hand. She had not courage to speak to Him. She crept up behind Him. With a great longing in her heart she just touched His cloak and immediately she was healed! She thought Jesus did not know. But He turned at once and spoke to her and blessed her, and she went away happy and thankful.
It was only a few minutes' delay, but it seemed like an hour to the anxious father whose child was at death's door. Ah, it is too late now! There is his servant running up and whispering in his ear, "It is all over, sir. Your daughter is dead. Don't trouble the Master any more." But Jesus overheard him and saw the deep pain in the poor father's heart. "Fear not," said He. "Keep trusting Me still." So He kept on His way to the house. And you can see the tender child-love in Him as He touches affectionately the dead young face. "Talitha cumi! My little girlie, rise up!" And as the child opened her eyes He said to her mother, "Now see that something is given her to eat."
That gives you an idea of how Jesus spent His days in Capernaum. I think they were happy days for Him. Making people happy. Making people good. I think that makes a good deal of the happiness of the great God who rules all the worlds and is caring for us all.
The Kingdom of God
T HERE was one thing above all else that the Lord Jesus wanted. There was a lovely vision always in His mind of something that He wanted to see down here on earth. He was always wishing for it and thinking of it and talking about it, trying to get people to help Him to get it. I think it was His chief reason for coming down from Heaven. It was very hard to get it, but it was always in His mind. I am sure He had been thinking of it and planning for it in His workshop in Nazareth when He was making chairs and cattle yokes in the daytime or walking on the lone hills in the evening. And now that He was out in the world as a great teacher He had always this longing in His heart.
It was the subject of His very first sermon. "The Kingdom of God is at hand." His very last teaching before He went back to Heaven was about it, "teaching the things concerning the Kingdom of God." Every time He sent out the apostles He told them, "Preach the Kingdom of God."
We have been reading of His kindly miracles and His affection for children and His pity for the sorrowful, and that people could not help loving Him and the crowds could not help following Him. But these were only little passing things. These were not the real things that brought Him down from Heaven. All the time He would be thinking of this Vision in His mind and wishing that they would help Him to get this great thing that He wanted.
What was this Vision of His that He was always talking of? He called it "the Kingdom of God" or "the Kingdom of Heaven." What did that mean? What do you think it should mean? Don't you think a Kingdom of God must surely mean a Kingdom where God was the King, where people obeyed and loved and honored God? A Kingdom of Heaven must mean something that would make earth like Heaven.
Where had He ever seen such a vision? At home in His own land in Heaven before He came. You remember how He told His disciples to pray for it and tells you to pray for it. "May Thy Kingdom come, May Thy Will be done on earth AS IT IS IN HEAVEN." As it is in Heaven. This Kingdom of God already exists up there. That was the pattern in His mind. It was not some new thing that He was planning. The picture in His mind was the memory of the glorious home that He had come from, where all were brave and good and pure and kind, living like happy children in the family of the great God and Father who loved and cared for them.
Of course He did not expect to get anything quite as good as Heaven down on this sinful earth, but He wanted to get as near as He could. He wanted a Kingdom like Heaven down here where people should think of God as their Father and King and try to please and love Him.
I have heard of a man who had to move from a lovely sunny land in the South to make his home in a cold far-off country. The old memories were so dear to him that he built his new house the exact pattern of the old one, and made everything as much like as he could to his memories of the happy old home vision. It reminds me of the Lord Jesus with the vision in His mind, longing to have a Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of Heaven down here with some likeness at least to the pattern in His mind.
I am trying to picture what I think was the vision in His mind of what this world would be like if everybody joined His Kingdom. This is what we would see. A bright, happy, beautiful world. Boys and girls and men and women true and generous and kindly, the sort of people that you would like to be with, the sort of people that make life pleasanter for all about them. They are just ordinary natural people, boys and girls busy with their games and amusements and lessons, men and women busy with their work, but all with the pleasant happy feeling in their hearts that they are like children in the family of the kindly Father in Heaven who is deeply interested in them.
They wake up in the morning with the sunlight on the
windows and step out into God's world and say their
simple little prayer. "Thanks be to Thee, O Lord. Help
me not to disappoint Thee
Dying does not frighten them at all. For dying only means stepping out of this little Kingdom of God on earth into the big real wonderful Kingdom of God in Heaven.
Don't you think this will be a very delightful world when that vision comes true? It is coming true all right. Already He has on earth a great many members of this Kingdom. You know some of them, the nice, loving, lovable people, people that you like to be with, who are trying to do what He likes and so are helping to make the world happier and better. He loves to see that. But I think He must be disappointed too because there are many still outside His Kingdom. Don't you hate to see Him disappointed? Surely you and I would not like to disappoint Him. Pray to Him, Lord, I want to be a faithful member of Thy Kingdom. May Thy Kingdom come and Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Here is a little story that I greatly like. The Emperor Frederick the Great was visiting a village school and was questioning the children about the three great kingdoms of Nature—Animal, Vegetable and Mineral. He held up his watch. "Now what kingdom does this belong to?"
"The Mineral Kingdom."
"And this?"(holding up a flower).
"The Vegetable Kingdom."
"And now what kingdom do I belong to?"
He expected them to say, "The Animal Kingdom." But the children were puzzled. At last a little girl timidly held up her hand:
"Well, my little maid, what kingdom do I belong to?"
"The Kingdom of God, Your Majesty."
And amid solemn silence the great King bowed his head.
"Pray God that I may be worthy," he said.
The King Beginning His Kingdom
N OW comes the great day when Jesus began to make His vision real, when He started His "Kingdom of God" on this earth. His visit to earth was soon to end. Next year He is to die in bitter agony on the Cross "for us men and for our salvation," and then to rise triumphant from the grave and go back into the Kingdom of God above to prepare a place for the children of His Kingdom here to go to when they die, into the big, lovely Kingdom of God in Heaven.
He could not go on much longer Himself founding His Kingdom on earth, because, you see, His visit to earth would soon be over. So, as I have told you, He decided to appoint a band of faithful men to go on with it after He was gone. He thought of choosing twelve men to begin with, who were to be His close comrades and learn to love Him and understand Him and get excited over His lovely vision. He would trust His Kingdom to them, and He told them, "You won't be alone at this task. I will be with you always to the end of the world."
That was a great day for the world when He began His Kingdom. I want you to see it.
A still summer night on the hills by the Lake of Galilee, those hills that I was looking at last year. There under the silent stars all the night long lay a solitary Man, thinking and praying, while below on the slopes and in the villages the crowds who followed Him were asleep. The Bible says, "Jesus went up into the mountain and continued all night in prayer to God." Because this was a great thing that He was going to do and He wanted help and guidance from Heaven.
Now it is dawn, with the reddening sky and the fresh breeze from the Lake and the chirping of little birds wakening to the new day. Gradually the hill slopes are dotted with people. The disciples and the multitudes are looking for Him. Suddenly He appears coming down the hill and He seems to have some great purpose on His mind. They all gather around Him. Then in the solemn wondering silence He calls twelve names. Simon! and Simon Peter comes forward. Andrew! and Andrew came. Then James and John and the others in their order, ending with Judas Iscariot, who afterwards betrayed Him.
That little ceremony on the hill that morning was one of the great events of history, the beginning of a little society, the Christian Church, which should go out through all the coming years telling of Jesus and getting people to join His lovely Kingdom of God.
Then He gave His blessing to that future
Kingdom and told them what the people of that Kingdom
would be like. This is called His "Sermon on the
Mount." Here is just the beginning of
"Blessed are the poor in spirit—the poor humble people who feel their need of God.
"Blessed are the meek—the people who are not always thinking about themselves or fighting for themselves.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
"Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after Righteousness, for they shall be filled."
That is Jesus' vision of a happy world, His Kingdom of God on earth that He bids us pray for, "Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven." Surely earth will be growing like Heaven when His Kingdom has fully come.
So that morning Jesus started His Kingdom and sent out His apostles to teach about it and to go on teaching about it when He was gone, and then before they died they were to appoint other men to go on with it. And so it is going on still. When we go to church and say the prayers and listen to the preachers we are just going on with what the Lord Jesus started that morning by the Lake long ago.
The Captain and His Servant
N OW watch Jesus coming down the mountain-path after His Sermon on the Mount. The new apostles are walking with Him, all excited over what has just happened. They see a poor leper with his horrible disease meeting Him on the path and reaching out his crippled hands. "O Lord, if You liked You could cure me." And Jesus said, "I will! Be thou cured!" And immediately the horrible sores were healed and the poor leper felt himself a new man. So Jesus had made another man happy, what He always loved doing. Surely the poor leper would love Him for that.
A little farther on another very interesting thing happened. They were just entering into Capernaum, where Jesus was going home to His little room in Peter's house, when they were stopped by a group of the village men with a very unusual request that He would do a kind deed for a heathen soldier. It was not often that Jews would ask favors for a heathen. But this was a very fine heathen. He was the Roman captain from the barrack on the hill, and he was greatly troubled about his young soldier servant who was dying in great pain. Of course he knew about Jesus. For months past he could not come through the village without hearing of Him and seeing the crowds around Him. One of his comrade officers was "the nobleman whose son was sick in Capernaum." You remember how he rushed off to Cana and how Jesus cured his son. I am sure this soldier friend of his knew about it and hoped that maybe Jesus would heal his poor servant too. But he was a stranger and a heathen and was afraid to ask. So these Jewish men, who admired and liked him, came to ask for him. "He is worthy," they said, "that You should do this for him, for he loveth our nation and has built us our synagogue, our white church where You have preached."
I feel quite interested in this man, for you remember how I told you that last year when I was at Capernaum I stood one day in that very synagogue and handled the stones and the broken pillars in the ruins of that old church which he had built. So now as I write this I almost feel that he is not quite a stranger to me.
So Jesus went up towards the barrack. But when the officer saw Him coming he felt that he had been too bold in asking Him to come. He sent some friends down from the barrack to say, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. You healed my comrade's boy when You were far away by just speaking a word. Now if You will just speak the word my servant will be healed. I believe You have power to do this."
Jesus was greatly pleased. Pleased that the man should so greatly care for his young soldier servant, but specially pleased that this proud Roman officer, this heathen man, should believe in Him more than His own Jewish friends did. Surely Jesus must have made a great impression on him. All he had heard about Jesus, all he had learned of His power and His lovely character during those few months in that little village, made him feel that here was somebody far different from all other men, better than all other men and greater than all other men. It would make him think of the stories in his heathen religion of the old gods coming down from heaven. That was why he felt so humble before Jesus. He was only a Roman, only a heathen, but I think deep in his heart he was a better Christian than many of the people in that crowd. I think Jesus liked the man being so humble and yet so trustful. "Lord I am not worthy but I greatly want you and I trust you." So while he counted himself unworthy that Jesus should enter his house he was counted worthy that Jesus should enter his heart.
Jesus was greatly attracted by him. "Verily," He said, "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." And He said to the captain, "Go thy way. As thou hast believed so be it done unto thee." And his servant was healed in that same hour.
A Boy's Funeral
T HAT was a wonderful miracle in our last chapter. But there was something next day and much more wonderful. It must have been very exciting to follow Jesus in those days. One never knew what wonderful thing might happen.
The Bible says, "The day after He went to a village called Nain and His disciples went with Him and much people." Nain was a little mountain village in South Galilee, about twenty miles from Capernaum. (Look for it in the map.) The ruins of the old village are still there and the remains of the old gateway and some ancient burial caves about a mile outside. It must have been evening, for He had already walked twenty miles.
Now Jesus and His followers are walking up the mountain-path to the village. I think it was evening for they had already walked twenty miles. Everything looked peaceful and happy till suddenly they hear in the distance a sorrowful wailing, and soon, through the village gate, came out a funeral procession. Such an awfully sad funeral! On the wicker bier the body of a dead lad bound in white grave clothes, with his head and shoulders bare, and behind the bier a weeping, heart-broken woman. "He was the only son of his mother and she was a widow."
Anyone would be touched by such a sight. Jesus especially would. For His affectionate heart would feel more keenly than others. This poor woman years before had followed her husband's funeral and now here was the orphan boy that her husband had left her—her only boy. Probably he was now grown up—able to support her as Jesus Himself had supported His widowed mother when the good Joseph had died. Surely His heart was sore for this poor widow.
Respectfully He and His followers draw aside to let the widow pass with her dead son. I read He had compassion on her. But she did not notice Him. She has no thought of Him standing there on the roadside with His heart full of sympathy. I am thinking of the thousands and thousands of mothers in all the ages at the funeral of a dead son. I know that the Lord was looking down on them and that "He had compassion on them." But like this mother in Nain they never saw and never thought that He was near them, looking, thinking, caring. We have seen so many of them lately in that terrible war-time feeling like poor King David "in the chamber over the gate" when his son Absalom was dead.
We believe that Jesus is always there and "He has compassion on them." What a pity they cannot see, that they do not know. Whenever you see a funeral like that, say to yourself, "I believe Jesus is looking down and has compassion on them."
Suddenly the funeral is stopped. Jesus has stepped out from the roadside and lays His hand on the dead boy. "He touched the bier and they who carried it stood still." And then His word of power thrilled through the dead heart and brain, thrilled through that spirit world where that boy's soul had gone. "Young man, I say unto thee, Arise! And he that was dead sat up and began to speak. And Jesus delivered him to his mother." "Delivered him to his mother." It was the poor mother that He was thinking of. Don't you love to see Him do that? Wasn't it "just like Him," as we say? We reverently mean, Wasn't it just like God? Doesn't it show us what God feels? And doesn't it make us think of the lovely time that is coming when in the blessed land of the Hereafter He will take each of these boys who have died and "deliver him to his mother"? For that is what Jesus promises will be by and by.
I have heard mothers ask in the terrible war time when their boys had died in battle, "If it be true that Jesus cares and has compassion on me, why does not He raise up my boy and all our boys?" That is a hard question. What do you think? Since death means birth into a better, nobler life, I think it would be a pity to bring them back. Of course, the mother is miserable at this parting, but if she knew the wonder of the boy's new life and its exciting adventures and all the marvellous things that he is learning there in the presence of his Lord, she would never think of wishing her boy back. It would be like putting the chicken back into the egg, or like bringing the butterfly back to be a caterpillar again. I am thinking of my own dear boy who died and of the wonderful life that he is living now and the wonderful day when I shall meet him again, and I would not for all this world ask to bring him back.
Somehow I don't think Jesus liked doing it either except for some special reason. For there were many other poor mothers in Israel with dead boys as well as this poor mother in Nain, and I know that Jesus had compassion on them. But He did not bring back their boys. Only three times in His whole life did He do it, and I think He must have had some special reason. Otherwise I think He would not have done it.
So instead of bringing back their boys He teaches in His Gospel to every poor mother that her boy is in God's good care in the great, wonderful, training school above, and bids her look forward to the day when she will see him again. Her boy will be well worth waiting for when she meets him in that day when God, in His own good time, will "deliver him to his mother."
Going on Holiday
W E all like holidays. We older people like them as you youngsters do, and look forward to them every year when we can get them. But we do not all think about them in the same way as we do about our work—that God likes them and is interested in them. We older people know that our work and our daily duties are God's will for us. You know that your schoolwork is God's will, sums and geography and Latin and hard lessons. He likes to see you do them well to prepare you for doing bigger things by and by.
But do we think that our holidays, when we have done our work, are also God's will for us—games and play, marbles and baseball and football and cricket and swimming and idle sailing on sunny lakes in summer? Are they God's will for us? Some people seem to think that God is only interested in our work, that holidays and enjoyment and fun are something that God just puts up with and is not interested in. Now that is all wrong. It would be bad for you to think that the things you most enjoy are something that God does not care about.
One great use of studying our Lord's life is to find out what He thinks about things. So it is very interesting to come on this story of a day when He went off with His disciples for a holiday.
He had sent them away on a difficult preaching mission through the country. Now they had just returned, dead tired from tramping the hot country roads and preaching and arguing with people who were sometimes disagreeable. They had had a hard time, and also they were troubled and vexed over the horrible news they had heard in the South, that John the Baptist had been murdered in his prison by King Herod. Now they are back, all flushed and excited and over-tired, as they tell of what they had seen and heard and done. I think the Lord was very tired too. I like to think of His being tired like one of ourselves. From morning till night the crowds were pressing round Him and His tired comrades. The Bible says they had no rest, "no leisure so much as to eat."
Then one day, when they were feeling hot and tired, Jesus spoke the very words they needed. "Let us go off for a holiday," He said. "Come away with me into a country place and rest awhile." He knew it would be good for them to get away from work and people, away amid the fields and woods and mountains, and talk and rest and enjoy themselves together.
It was a kindly thought and it shows us His thought about our holidays and rest and amusement. He likes to see us playing as well as working. He likes to see us laughing and enjoying ourselves. He likes good hearty work. But He likes, also, good hearty play after work. So Jesus teaches us that holiday time as well as lesson time, playtime as well as worktime, is something that God likes for us.
Now I see these serious grown men like a set of happy
schoolboys starting off for this holiday. They are
waiting on the lakeshore. Peter and another are
bringing in the clumsy boat. He could not do it alone,
for she was a clumsy old lugger if she was at all like
what they use on the Lake
Now the Master is seated. They all clamber in. As soon as they are out in deep water, the red-brown sail is set. They are steering northeast to the country hills, away from the bustle and strain and excitement, glad to be on holiday on the sunny water, rejoicing to feel a boat under them again, laughing and talking and interrupting each other, eagerly reminding each other of their mission experiences, or sometimes, with anger and sorrow in their hearts, telling the Master what they had heard of how the brave Baptist died.
We call these men "saints." Saint Peter and
Saint James and Saint John.
But these "saints" as we call
We do not know where this holiday party had planned to go that day or how long they meant to be away. We hope they had other holidays later. But busy people, who greatly need holidays, cannot always get them. At any rate this pleasant excursion to which they had so looked forward was interrupted and stopped on its very first day. But such wonderful things happened before that day was done that they must have felt it well worth while to have lost their holiday. Read on and you will see what stopped the holiday.
What Stopped the Holiday
I THINK the men in the boat soon began to suspect that their holiday must be put off. As they looked back they could see a crowd gathering on the Capernaum shore looking after their boat, moving away to the opposite shore. "Let us follow Him by the Lake road," said someone, and the men in the boat saw them start off together on foot by the long rough path at the north side of the Lake, even women with sick children trying to keep up with them.
So Jesus and the disciples were hardly landed when the crowd was upon them. His plan for a quiet holiday was stopped. How pleasantly He took it! These thousands of people intruding on His resting time, spoiling His plan. But they wanted Him; wanted Him badly. That is always enough for Jesus. These mothers and sick children went to His heart. So He moved about among them, listening to their troubles, healing their sick, telling them hopeful things about the Father in Heaven. And the disciples went among them too, helping where they could.
So the long hours passed. Evening was come. And Jesus was thinking about that crowd of tired, hungry people, men and women and boys and girls so far from home. How could they ever get back over that long road without getting anything to eat? The disciples were getting uneasy about them too.
Jesus knew what He would do, but He wanted to see how far His disciples trusted His power.
"What do you think we can do, Philip?" He asked.
"We cannot do anything, Master," said Philip. "It would take two hundred shillings' worth of bread to feed them, and there are no shops out here."
By and by the other disciples came.
"Lord, send them away. Let them try to get food at some village if they can."
"No," said Jesus, "they cannot do it. We must feed them ourselves."
"Lord, it is impossible! It would take two hundred shillings' worth of bread, and there is none to be had."
"How many loaves have ye?" He asked.
"We have nothing but our own supper, just five barley loaves and a couple of fishes."
"Bring them to Me," He said. "Now bid the people sit down on the grass in rows of hundreds and fifties."
What a sight that was! Imagine about fifty rows of people sitting on the grass in their many-colored clothes, white and brown and yellow and blue, like a great garden of flower-beds, and the puzzled disciples staring at them and at each other and at the Master. "What in the world is He going to do?"
Then happened the most wonderful thing! While all eyes were fixed wonderingly on Him, I read that "Jesus took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to Heaven He blessed and brake and gave to the disciples." In utter astonishment they took the loaves, and as they broke them to the people they saw the loaves got no smaller and the fishes got no less! They must have felt like men in a dream. That is the sort of thing that happens in dreams. And the hungry people ate and the children were fed and at the end there was more food left than they started with. "Gather it up to eat on the road home," said Jesus. "Let nothing be wasted." And the number of people fed was "5,000 men besides women and children." Surely a wonderful miracle.
How did Jesus make a few loaves feed that crowd? I don't know. But I know He was God and that every year He is doing things like that, making the few grains of wheat sown on the earth increase and increase till they are enough to feed the whole world.
The farmer who sows the seed does not know how this wonderful thing is done. He just spreads one bushel of wheat on the earth and then covers it up and goes away. He can do no more. Then he comes back at harvest time and finds that God has made it into fifty bushels! That is all he knows. He has got so used to it now that he does not even wonder at it. That is a pity. I think it would make him religious if he did wonder at it. And you too. For surely it is a greater wonder even than the feeding of 5,000 men. There was once an old poet who did wonder, and it made him write in the Book of Psalms, "O that men would praise the Lord . . . for the wonders that He doeth for the children of men!"
Then Jesus dismissed the crowd and bade them go home. But they would not go. Never in all their lives had they known such a wonder as this. At first they were silent with surprise. Then they began to get excited. They cheered and shouted and hailed Him as King of the Jews. They wanted Him made King right away. You see the Galilee people did not quite understand His teaching about His "Kingdom of God." Many thought it was to be an earthly kingdom and that Jesus should reign in Jerusalem as King, like King David of old, and drive out the tyrant Romans from Israel. It was a stupid mistake, but they were ignorant people and did not understand. Jesus knew that this would make bad mischief. So He ordered the disciples to get down to the boat at once and go home, and He Himself departed up into the dark hills to wait till the crowd went away.
So the evening deepened into night and the night into midnight, and the wind was howling through the hills, and still the lonely Christ was there upon the hillside "continuing all night in prayer to God." Now the dawn is lightening in the East and He sees the disciples in their heavy boat "toiling in rowing, for the wind was against them." Suddenly in the early morning He came to them walking on the sea. They were frightened at first till they heard Him speak. "Cheer up! Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid!" I do love to hear Him say so often "Cheer up!"
Then all fear was gone and Peter was so ashamed of his fright that he called out, "Lord, if it be Thou, let me walk to Thee on the water." Was not it just like Peter, who often spoke without thinking, who would leap into the water first and then, when he was in, see the dangerous waves? Jesus said, "Come on," and he came, but the waves frightened him and he began to sink. "O Lord, save me," he cries. "I'm drowning!" But Jesus would not let him drown. He caught him and held him up. "Why did not you trust Me, Peter? You could have done it all right if you trusted Me."
Then He came into the boat and sailed home with these silent, wondering men. If they had been chattering and talking that morning as they sailed out, you may be sure there was no chattering or talking now. They were so full of wonder that they surely sat silent, and I think they must have felt that it was quite worth losing their holiday to see the wonders that they had seen. They had not yet quite learned that He was God, but they were learning.
A Wonderful Week
I HAVE to leave out a great many things in this part of the story. There is not room. They would make this book too big. But I must not leave out one wonderful week just before He went away from Galilee.
Away in northern Galilee, where the river Jordan rises among the mountains, is the gay little town of Cæsarea Philippi, a fashionable holiday place for rich people in summer. (Look on the map.) Out among the lone hills above the town Jesus is camping with the disciples. But they are not there for holidays. He has taken them away from people to be all alone with Himself for solemn teaching. From what you have just read, you will see that amid the crowds of people always about Him there is not time nor quiet for this. He must teach them, and there is not much time left. Though they do not know it yet, the time is coming near when He must die and leave them and they must carry on His work and His teaching and His Kingdom of God when He is gone. And they are not ready yet. They are only beginning to understand Him, only beginning to find out who He really is.
One day as they were sitting thinking on the hillside He suddenly came across to them with this question: "Tell Me, who do the people think that I am?"
"Well, Master, some like King Herod think that You are John the Baptist risen from the dead. Some say You are Elijah come back to earth. Some say that You are Jeremiah or one of the old prophets."
Then at once He sprung on them the much more important question:
"But who do ye think that I am?"
Promptly, without hesitation, Peter answered for them all,
"THOU ART THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD!"
He was greatly pleased. His men were beginning to understand. Now they would have something worth while to teach people. Don't you see that so long as people thought of Him as only a good man all His loving deeds and His beautiful teaching would not mean so much. But when the poor sinful world should learn, This is the Son of God who has come down to us from Heaven, this affectionate Master is God and these loving deeds and beautiful teaching are just God showing His feeling towards us—don't you see what a delightful revelation this would be? No wonder Jesus was pleased. "Blessed art thou, Simon Peter! It is not men that have taught you this but My Father in Heaven!"
But He had more lessons to teach them. They would expect now that He would go out with them in power and great glory to found His Kingdom in the land. Alas! they did not know what was coming, and Jesus did not want it to catch them unprepared.
So next day came an awful shock when He began to tell them, "The Son of Man shall be delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him, and the third day He shall rise again from the dead." It was a terrible surprise. They could not believe it. That Jesus should be killed! Poor Peter felt as if a cold hand had been laid upon his heart. "O God forbid!" he cried. "O Master, surely this shall not happen to Thee!"
But Jesus rebuked him. "You are thinking like men," He said, "not thinking like God. To think like men would be to save Myself from these things. To think like God means that I must not save Myself—that I must suffer everything in order to do what I came from Heaven for."
But still they could not understand. I think they only half believed it. They tried to forget it, as we all try to forget unpleasant things. And three of them at least found it easier to forget it in their astonishment at something that happened a few days later. For He had a great deal more to teach them that week. Read on and you will see.
How They Saw Jesus in His Glory
Y ES, He had a great deal more to teach that week. We are not told all the things He said day after day to prepare them for teaching the world when He was gone. They had seen very wonderful things, but on the last day of that week came the surprise of their lives. They saw Jesus in His glory! They got a glimpse through the veil into that Unseen World where He belonged. For I read that after six days "He took Peter and James and John and went up into the mountain to pray and He was transfigured before them."
They were alone in the darkness of a summer night high up on the slopes of Mount Hermon. The Master was apart from them rapt in prayer. When they had said their own little prayer, I suppose the prayer that He had taught them, "Our Father who art in Heaven," they lay down to sleep in their cloaks. Some time in the night they were wakened by a feeling of brightness and glory and a sense of strange happenings. And their eyes opened on a sight never given to mortal man before! They seemed in a new world, a world of glory. I suppose they thought they had died and gone to Heaven.
The Master was still praying. And as He prayed His whole appearance changed. His body shone with golden light, His clothes became dazzling, "exceeding white as no fuller on earth can whiten them." It seemed as if the heavens opened above them. He appeared in glory and beauty and grandeur as if He were back in the Heaven that He came from. And out of that opened Heaven came two of its great people, Moses and Elijah, who had died hundreds of years ago. They were speaking with their Master about His death and His "going out" from earth back into their world again. They spoke of His "going out" just as the others from that world, the Christmas angels, had sung of His "coming in" on the plains of Bethlehem thirty years before. It makes me think how closely their heavenly world was watching and keeping in touch with Him all the time.
The three astonished disciples stared and stared in dumb wonder till the vision seemed about to go. Then Peter could not keep quiet any longer. He felt as if He were in Heaven, and poor Peter had not been having much of Heaven lately with the hints about His Master's death, with the memory of that stern rebuke. "O Master, let us stay!" he cried. "Let us make three tabernacles, one for Thee, one for Moses, one for Elijah!" He was so astonished that he did not know what he was saying. "And while he yet spake behold a bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice came out of the golden cloud, This is My beloved Son, hear ye Him."
At this they fell on their faces and knew no more till Jesus came and touched them, and they looked up and saw only the cold dawn upon the mountain and saw no man save Jesus only. The vision was past. The gates of the Unseen World had closed again and they found they had not got to Heaven after all. But oh the wonder, the wonder of it! They could never forget it. Long afterwards St. John wrote of that night as a great reality when, as he says, "we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father." But Jesus bade them keep it all a secret for the present. "Don't talk of it yet," He said, "until after I have risen from the dead."
You see at once how this would raise their whole thoughts of Jesus—that He who moved about with them as a man was someone much more than a man—that He who lived with them as an affectionate comrade was worshipped and adored in Heaven?
I wonder if it taught them, too, what I think would be a delightful thing to learn, that the people who have died and gone into the great world above are still interested in our world here, interested in us, caring for us, helping us. You see, Moses and Elijah had died a long time ago and I suppose people thought they were not interested in this world any more. But here they come, knowing what Jesus is doing in the dear land that they had loved and worked for long ago, watching what is happening and going to happen, talking to Him of His death which should happen in Jerusalem next year. I am thinking, too, of the "two young men in white," who came down from that world to talk to the apostles when Jesus was ascending into Heaven. I suppose they were two young men who had died long before. Other such things, too, are told in the Bible.
I love to think that about fathers and mothers and friends who have died and gone into that world. I think of a mother who has died and gone into that world leaving her dear children. I feel sure she is remembering them and loving them still. Don't you think she may be also watching and helping and praying for them? A great many Christian people believe that and love to believe it. I myself believe it most strongly. So if your mother or anyone who greatly loved you has gone into that world, if you are doing what would please her I should advise you to keep on doing it, and if you are doing anything that would pain her I advise you to stop it right away. I think that mother love in that New Land is very dear to God, and I don't think Jesus is likely to forget what a mother in that Land says to Him about her child on earth.
I came one day lately on the story of a school cricket match which greatly interested me. The boy at the bat evidently believed that his father, who had died, could see him and was interested in him still.
A famous old cricketer had lost his sight, he was stone-blind. It was a great grief to him that he could not see his own son play the great game which he so loved. The son became the best bat of the school team and used to lead his blind father to the games. But beyond hearing the remarks of the crowd on his boy's play he got little pleasure out of it. He could see nothing of the play.
One day the old man suddenly died. The following Saturday a great school match was to be played, and the rest of the team were, of course, afraid that their best bat would be absent, but to their surprise he appeared in his flannels and said he was going to play. And he batted that day as he had never batted before. He cut and drove with courage and judgment. His companions were astonished. He rattled up a century in no time and won the match for his side. After the cheering in the pavilion had died down, a comrade said to him, "You played the greatest game of your life this afternoon." And he replied, "I couldn't help playing like that, it was the first time my father ever saw me at the bat!"
Good-Bye to Galilee
W E are coming to the close of the Galilee story. After the wonderful week, opening with the Great Confession and closing with the glory of the Transfiguration, Jesus seemed to His disciples in some degree changed. He seemed different, higher, greater, more apart. He is thinking more about the end. I read, "As the time drew near that He should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem." He has to go to Jerusalem to teach His gospel in the centre of the nation. He has to go to Jerusalem to die. The end is in sight.
As they go back home to Capernaum He takes them by lonely ways, by the tracks through the hills where they would be away from people. His teaching is still going on. Look at them one day as they come near home. The Master is walking in front, thinking His great thoughts, and they are straggling in twos and three behind, whispering between themselves. They do not want Him to hear. "For by the way they were disputing who should be the greatest." They knew He would not like it. Perhaps they were jealous that Peter and James and John had been chosen to be with Him that night on the mountain. Jesus did not interfere and they thought He had not noticed. But that evening as they were all resting together in Peter's house I see Him asking them with a quiet smile, "Now tell Me what you were disputing about on the road?" They look startled at each other. They see that He knows. They are ashamed and keep silent.
I see Peter's little boy rubbing against His knee. The child was fond of Him and was welcoming Him home. So He lifted him on His knee, and with the child nestling in His arms He talks to the disciples. "Look," He says, "at this child. He does not want to be the greatest. Whoever of you shall be like this little child the same will be greatest in the Kingdom of God."
So through the heart of a little child He taught them. He did not take a verse of Scripture for His text as a preacher does in church. His text was the little boy nestling in His arms, knowing that he was safe and that Jesus was fond of him, not fretting about the future or wanting to be greater than others. "I want you to become like this little child," He says.
You can understand that. Children just trust father and mother for everything. They know they are loved and cared for. That is why they are happy. Jesus wants us all to be like that, big people and little, old people and young, like happy children in the great Father's family, trusting Him and loving Him.
Jesus loved telling people that the way to be happy is to be like a happy, trustful child, and that God likes to see that in all of us.
Why was this child happy and trustful in Jesus' arms? Because he knew that he was loved. He knew that Jesus was fond of him. That is the very first lesson in religion. Be sure that you are loved by God more than even your parents love you. To learn that is more important than even to learn that you are sinful. Nothing helps us more than to learn that we are loved and cared for. That will make us try not to be sinful. Jesus said that to be like that is to be religious; that especially pleasant in the sight of God is to have the heart of a little child.
But He had more lessons to teach from that text of Peter's little boy. He was thinking about the future, thinking of what might happen to that dear little lad as he grew up. He felt angry as He thought how that happy innocent child in His arms might be led wrong by others some day and maybe become a bad man. The very thought of it made Him angry. "It would be better," He said, "for a man to have a mill-stone tied round his neck and be cast into the sea than that he should lead one of my little ones into sin."
I don't quite know when—maybe it
was next day—when He
was going to leave Capernaum to go away to Jerusalem
to die, that some of the Capernaum mothers came to say
good-bye. They were sorry that He was going whom their
children were fond of, and they wanted Him to bless the
children before He went. The disciples did not want
Him to be bothered with women and children just when He
was so busy. "Go away," they said, "the Master cannot
see you. He is too busy to be bothered with children
If the Lord of Heaven is like that and feels like that about children, don't you think it is rather a good thing to be alive and a good thing to come to Him with our prayers, and not a bad thing, either, to die and go to Him when the time comes.