The Fifth Book
How He started on the road to Jerusalem to die, and some great things that happened on the road.
How He Started on the Jerusalem Road
S O Jesus said good-bye to Capernaum and the Lake. "Now that the time was come that He should be received up He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem." Sadly He bids good-bye to His native province which had disappointed Him at the end. As He sorrowed later over Jerusalem, so He sorrows now over these pleasant places by the Lake. He is so sorry for what they have missed. If they had only known! If they had only known! I think of Him on the Jerusalem road turning back for a last look. "Woe for thee, Chorazin! Woe for thee, Bethsaida! Woe for thee, Capernaum! If the mighty works done in you had been done long ago in Sodom it would have remained to this day."
So He faced the Jerusalem road. When I went over that road lately from Galilee to Jerusalem, I found that a man could walk it in three or four days. But I find this story of the Road up to His death is about six months long. How is that?
Well, you see, He wanted to get to Jerusalem to tell His blessed message when the big crowds from all nations would be there at times of the Church Festivals. When He got there the great Harvest Festival was on—the Feast of Pentecost. The city was crowded. But as soon as He began to teach His enemies tried to kill Him and He had to go, because He would not let them kill Him till He had preached His message. So He taught His Good News of God outside through the country, and at the next Festival He ventured in again. And again they would not listen. They tried to stone Him and again He had to go. The third time He went in again at the Feast of Passover and taught. Then they crucified Him. He would not go out any more now. His time was come. That is why the story of the Road to His death is six months long.
Now we are to follow Him from Galilee on the Jerusalem Road the week before Harvest Festival. He sent some disciples before Him, two by two, to tell the people on the roadside towns that He was coming. One pair, James and John, were told in Samaria, "We don't want Him. We won't have Him here," and James and John were very angry. A little later, I suppose, another pair reached the village of Bethany near Jerusalem, and went to the most important house where a man called Lazarus lived with his sisters Martha and Mary. They knew about Jesus and loved all that they heard about Him and were delighted to think He would stay with them on His way when He should come. So they began to prepare for Him and when He got to Bethany He came to stay with them on His way to Jerusalem.
I don't know if they had ever seen Him before, but this was the beginning of a very delightful friendship which was such a pleasure to the Lord in the sorrowful days to come. In this home some of His happiest days were spent. For they were real friends and Jesus had a great desire for friendship. The Bible says, "He loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus," and you can think what a pleasant thing it was when He was tired and sorrowful to have one house that He could always feel was "Home." Every time afterwards that He was near Jerusalem He seems to have stayed there. Every day in the sorrowful week before His death He went home at night to Bethany. And there He came to bid farewell to this world when He was going back to Heaven. On that day, the Bible says, He led the disciples out as far as to Bethany, and there He passed from them and was carried up into Heaven. I think surely His three Bethany friends would have been there that day, though the Bible does not tell us.
I like writing about that lovely friendship. And I like to think that Lazarus and his sisters, who made home for their Lord on earth, are with Him now to-day in His home above. "I go to prepare a place for you," He told His disciples, "that where I am there ye may be also." Don't you think there are some nice things to be looked forward to by and by when we get there?
Harvest Festival in Jerusalem
O one evening about the 18th of the month
Tisri, or October, A.D. 28, I see Jesus
arriving at Bethany very tired, on His way to the
Harvest Festival, meeting these new friends, talking
with Lazarus in the garden, sitting with the sisters
before He went to bed, walking perhaps to the bend of
the road from which He could see the lights of the
city where nearly a million of Jews from many nations
It was a gay sight that met Him next day. Jerusalem and the whole country around is keeping holiday for the Feast of Tabernacles, the Harvest Thanksgiving, the brightest, gladdest holiday of all the year, the feast of a nation resting from its work, "the feast of Ingathering at the end of the year when thou hast gathered in thy labors out of the field."
Everyone liked to go to this popular Festival. Multitudes are crowding the streets, men of many lands from the Danube to the Euphrates, friends meeting friends who had not met for a year. Thousands of people out from their houses living in the open air, dwelling in tents. Bordering every street, crowning the city walls, filling all the open spaces are the bowers of green branches of olive and vine with bunches of ripe grapes hanging over each booth. In these pleasant bowers the people kept holiday to thank God for His mercies in the past and to remind themselves of the ancient days of the nation when Moses led their fathers through the wilderness and the people dwelt in tents.
I dare say there was a good deal of careless fun and merriment without much thought of God, just as I am afraid happens sometimes at Christmas in our own day, but the chief thought of the Festival was thanksgiving to God. Hundreds of clergy were up for the services. The Temple was crowded all the day long. Amid the chanting of priests and the sounding of silver trumpets, the people rejoiced, praising the Lord. No other Festival was so joyous as this. "He who has not seen this festival," said the rabbis, "does not know what joy means."
This year the crowds have something new to talk about. Many are wondering and doubting and expecting. They are whispering about Jesus of Nazareth. They are afraid to say much for fear of the priests. Jesus has become famous this past year. Men of Galilee are disputing with men of Jerusalem, and the pilgrims from far-off lands are hearing strange things about this mysterious young prophet who some people think may be really the Great Coming One that the prophets spoke of long ago.
The priests and Pharisees and rulers of the people will not listen to such talk. They say, "He is a bad man, He is disturbing the country and upsetting the church and He ought to be put to death." But there are people in the crowds who do not believe this. They do not know what to think.
Young John the disciple is walking in the crowd listening to the talk going on around him. He remembered some of it and wrote it down afterwards in his Gospel of St. John. Listen to it.
"Where is Jesus of Nazareth? He is not here."
"What think ye? Will He not come to the Feast?"
"He is a good man."
"Nay, He is only deceiving the people."
"Think ye that He is truly Messiah the Christ?"
"Nay, how could the Christ come out of such a place as Galilee? Has not the Bible said that He is to come from Bethlehem, David's city?"
"Some think He is the Great Coming One from Heaven."
"How could He be? Why, we know where He comes from. He is only a Nazareth carpenter. When the Great One the Messiah comes He will come from the unknown. No one will know where He comes from."
Suddenly there is a hush. Jesus is passing in the crowd in His blue and white robe stained with travel, and the strangers stare eagerly to see for the first time this Man that everyone is talking about. I wonder what they felt. An English writer, Charles Lamb, once said, "I think if Shakespeare came suddenly into this room we could not help standing up; if Jesus of Nazareth came in we could not help kneeling down." I wonder did they feel like that?
By and by a crowd gathered round Him and He taught them. We are not told what He said, only that many believed in Him but some did not. I wonder why? I think if you were there, that if you were wanting to be good, there was something about Him that would win your heart at once the moment you saw and heard Him. If you were not, perhaps it might be different.
Then Jesus moved away and again John the disciple heard the talk going on:
"Is not this the Man they want to kill? And now He speaks openly and they do nothing to Him. Do ye think that our rulers know that He is the Christ?"
Ah, no! They have very different thoughts. But they dare not touch Him with that friendly crowd around. There are Jews in that crowd from far-off lands who are not a bit afraid of the Jerusalem priests, and John hears some of them say:
"When the Christ cometh can He do greater things than this Man has done?"
When the rulers heard this talk they were very angry and went off to send their police to arrest Him. So when He stood again in the crowd that evening He saw police officers watching. He knew what that meant. Sadly He turns to the people, "Only a little longer shall I be with you," He said. "Then I go My way to Him that sent Me." But the officers were good men as well as policemen, and as they looked and listened they refused to arrest Him and the rulers were very angry with them.
But St. John has more pictures in his memory. Now it is the last day, the great day of the Feast. He sees the brilliant procession to the Pool of Siloam to bring water for the great service in church. At its head are the priests in their gorgeous vestments carrying the golden pitcher, and the long procession of pilgrims in their many-colored robes, waving their branches of willow and palm, singing the songs of praise to God. Probably Jesus is in that procession. Surely He likes those praises to God.
Now they are back in church with the golden pitcher. It was a splendid sight which John the disciple saw—the crowded Temple, the grand altar with its white-robed priests, the glory of color, the waving palms, the dress of many nations, the eager faces of the worshippers. All eyes are fixed on the altar where a priest is pouring water from the golden pitcher to remind them of God giving water in the thirsty desert long ago, and of God giving blessing to people who are thirsting for Him in their hearts. At the close of this service the silver trumpets ring out and the great Hallelujah swells through the church, "O give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever!"
And now at the close, in the waiting silence, rings out a clear solitary voice, the voice of Jesus Himself, "if any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink." Think of the surprise and excitement in the Temple at that moment. Was He mad that He should talk as if He were God? This strange lone prophet saying about God's gift to the thirsting souls of the world, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me!"
At evening service they were startled again. When the golden candlesticks were lighted and the people with blazing torches sang their rejoicing for the pillar of light which had led their fathers in the desert long ago, suddenly the voice of Jesus came to them again, "I am the light of the world. He that followed Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
Of course they were startled. Why, He speaks as if He were God Himself! He ought to die! And when He came out and spoke to them they took up great stones to stone Him. So He had to flee from the city and out in the villages carry on His teaching which Jerusalem would not listen to.
His Three Stories about the Father
W HEN Jerusalem had turned Him out and would not listen to Him, one would like to have been able to follow and listen as He taught in the villages and through the country. He taught about God's love, that God is our Father and so we ought to be like brothers to each other. He taught them about Prayer. He told how God hated sin and tried to keep us from doing it. He said that God had a work for each of us to do to try to make people happy and good, and that at the end of the world He Himself would come back to judge all men for the good and bad things they had done. He told them many other things, and some of His disciples afterwards wrote down all they could remember.
It was easier to remember because He had such an interesting way of teaching. He did not preach long sermons to people. He just got into conversation with them, or He answered questions for them, or, chiefly, He told stories which taught what He wanted. He loved telling stories. He would tell of a great King with his slaves around him in the Castle hall and little piles of money on the long red table—or of the old miser who was building new store-houses for his goods—or of a Pharisee going up into the Temple to pray—or of a rich man in his lordly mansion who neglected a poor beggar at his gate, and what happened when they both died and met each other in the spirit world after death.
There was one thing that He specially loved to teach, about God being like a Father to all of us His poor children here, and how He longs to save even the bad, disobedient ones if they would let Him.
Jesus was often teaching this, but I think St. Luke has found out for us some of the loveliest stories about it. After Jesus had died and risen and gone back to Heaven, St. Luke was writing his new book about the life of our Lord and he tried to find out if there were any things to be told that St. Matthew and St. Mark had not written. So he talked to all the old disciples that he could meet and some of them had been with Jesus on the Jerusalem road. One day he was delighted when they told him this lovely new story to put in his book. They told him that one day on the road to Jerusalem, when Jesus had come to Jericho, He had been talking and, I think, dining with a set of "publicans and sinners." Most of them were not a bit religious. But they liked Him and He liked them, though they were not very good people, and He liked telling them about God. It was just like St. Matthew's dinner in Capernaum.
Now the Pharisees and clergy and religious people were angry that He should mix with such people, whom they would not even speak to in the street. You see, the Pharisees thought that God only cared for His good, faithful children and did not care at all for publicans and sinners and people who were doing wrong. But Jesus said, No. God cared for sinful people too and had pain in His heart for them and longed to get them back because He loved them. So He told the Pharisees three little stories, and I feel rather glad that the Pharisees were angry since they got us these lovely stories.
The first is about a farmer who had a hundred sheep and one strayed away and got lost. He was quite troubled about his poor lost sheep lest it should fall off the rocks or get eaten by wolves, so he went away through the deserts and mountains to look for it. At last he found it, and he was so glad that he carried it off on his shoulders rejoicing and said to his people, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.
That is just how God feels, said Jesus, about sinners and bad people who stray away from Him. He loves them still and longs to get them back, and if He gets them there is joy in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth.
Then He told of a poor woman who had ten silver coins and lost one, and she was so anxious that she swept all the floor and searched everywhere till she found it. And then she rejoiced like the farmer with his sheep. That is just like God, He said. That is how the Father in Heaven feels about His lost children.
Maybe it was on another day that He told the story of the father and his two sons. There was a rich farmer in his fine home. He had two sons. The younger one was very troublesome. He was a bad boy and made his father's heart sorrowful. At last he said, "I don't want my father or his home. I won't stay here at all. I'll go away to a far country and get drunk and be wicked and do what I like and have no one to stop me." His father tried to keep him but it was no use. "I won't stay here," he said. "Give me my share of your money and let me go."
So away he went along the Great White Road to one of the wicked cities in a far country, and there he did just what he liked and made friends with bad comrades and spent his money in all sorts of wickedness. But somehow he did not get much happiness out of it. Sin never makes a man happy.
And by and by, when all his money was gone, he tried to
earn more to keep him from starving. But it was hard
to get work till he found a man who sent him into his
fields to feed pigs, and he was glad enough to get even
pigs' food to eat. For months he fed pigs, miserable
and ashamed, and often he thought of the happy home he
had left and the father who had been so good to him. He
was very sorry for what he had done. He longed to be
back, but he was afraid and ashamed to face his father.
At last he could stand it no longer. One day, sitting
among the pig-troughs, he made up his mind. "Whatever
happens, I'll risk it. I'll go back. I would rather feed
pigs for my father than here. I can never be his son
any more, but maybe he would let me in as a servant. I
will arise and go to my father and will say unto him,
'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee. I
am no more worthy to be called thy son. Will you take
me as one of your hired
So he started back over that long white road. But when the old home was in sight he was afraid to go on. Then came to him the surprise of his life! The dear old father hurrying down to meet him! He had been thinking and sorrowing about him all these years and now, in his delight at getting back his boy, he ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. "O Father," cried the poor ragged tramp, "I have sinned. I am not worthy."
But the father would not listen. He saw how sorry his boy was. He forgave him right away. He hurried him to the gate. He called to the servants, "Bring forth the best robe and put it on him, put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet, and bring hither the fatted calf to make a feast. For this my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found!" And that wicked, sorrowful tramp saw the wonder of a father's love. He was forgiven for all. He was called again "My son." Do you think he would ever forget it as long as he lived?
That, said Jesus, is what the Father in Heaven feels for a sinful son who has come back to be forgiven.
That is the lovely Gospel that Jesus came to tell and this is one of His lovely ways of telling it. Are not you glad that St. Luke discovered these three little stories which Jesus had told one day on the Jerusalem Road?
How He Brought Lazarus Back from the Dead
I WISH I could tell you more of these teachings of Jesus as He moved through the villages. I very much wanted to write His story of The Man with the Talents. But I have not room. You might read it for yourselves in the 25th chapter of St. Matthew.
Again, about two months later, I see Him venturing back into the city at the Feast of Dedication. I suppose He stayed the night at Bethany with Lazarus and Martha and Mary. They knew the danger before Him and I dare say they were frightened at His going into the city next morning. There the people got around Him and He taught them more about the Father in Heaven. But He startled them more than ever when He told them at the close, "I and My Father are one!"
This was an awful thing to hear. They could believe that He was a good man, a teacher and a prophet. But to claim that He was God! It made them very angry.
"Stone the blasphemer! Stone Him! Stone Him!"
The crowd went rushing for the big stones and Jesus stood alone without defense before them.
"Why do you want to stone Me?" He asked.
"Because Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God!"
It looked as if the end were come. But His time was not yet. Something of fear and wonder held them back. They must have felt something great and wonderful about Him that made them afraid. They dropped the stones, staring stupidly at Him. So Jesus walked out of the city for the last time. Next time He would let them kill Him.
So He started off again on His road, a hunted, persecuted man, sorrowful for His country and for the city that would not listen to Him. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" He said, "that killest the prophets, how often would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"
Of course He would say good-bye to His Bethany friends as He passed. It was a relief to see Him safe. They hardly expected Him to come out alive. Soon He passed from them out into the wilderness again to prepare for the end. And as they said good-bye Martha and Mary little dreamed of the big sorrow that was about to fall on their happy home and how sorely they would want Jesus before they saw Him again.
A month or two later He was away with His disciples somewhere among the hills, when one day came a sudden interruption. A messenger in hot haste from the sisters in Bethany. "Lord, he whom Thou lovest is very sick." Jesus knew even as the messenger spoke that Lazarus was already dead, and He thought of the heart-broken sisters in that pleasant home. He must surely go to them. The disciples were frightened for Him. "Lord," they said, "the people there have been just trying to kill You. Must You go there again?" How greatly they feared for Him we learn from the loyal, desponding Thomas. "If He goes to Judea He goes to His death. Let us also go that we may die with Him!"
So they came to Bethany. In the beautiful springtime amid the flowers of his garden, Lazarus lay in his grave and the two sisters were breaking their hearts. Mary is weeping in her darkened room, Martha is tending her guests, the friends from Jerusalem who had come to comfort them, when suddenly somebody rushes in, "The Master is coming! He is on the road below!" And in a moment Martha is rushing to meet Him. "O, if You had been here my brother would not have died."
"Martha," He answered, "your brother shall rise again."
But that did not seem to comfort her much. "Oh yes, Lord, I know he shall rise again at the Resurrection at the Last Day."
You see, she thought Lazarus must remain dead until the Last Day and that seemed so far away. But Jesus knew that Lazarus was living still in the spirit-world beyond the grave. His life goes on. He cannot die. "For," said Jesus, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that believeth on Me shall never die."
We do not know very much about that life into which Lazarus had gone away and into which some of our dear ones have gone. But we know that they are not dead nor unconscious. They are very much alive, like Moses and Elijah, who had died long ago and in that new life were so interested in what Jesus was doing on earth that they came through to talk to Him about it, as we read lately. I think it must be a very wonderful thing to die when the eyes that have closed in the darkness of death open on a light that never was on sea or land.
Martha is puzzled. She does not understand. But she leaves her puzzles with Jesus. "Well, Lord, at any rate I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, who should come into the world."
Now comes Mary to meet Him with the same cry, "Lord, if You had been here my brother would not have died." By this time the friends from Jerusalem have come out. "Show Me where you have laid him," said Jesus.
So they led Him to the garden amid the flowers of the springtime, little thinking how very soon they would be burying Jesus Himself amid the flowers of the springtime "in a garden" not far away. A great stone lay at the mouth of the tomb. Jesus said, "Take away that stone." Martha is frightened, but He silences her with a word. "Martha, did not I tell you that you shall see the glory of God?"
Now keep your eyes on the excited little crowd around the grave and the two sisters frightened and wondering. Then Jesus raised His eyes to Heaven in thanksgiving. Then His word of almighty power went sounding into that tomb and into the great spirit-world where Lazarus had gone. "Lazarus, come forth!" Then a solemn, awful pause while the people held their breath in horror and expectation, in that pause tremendous things were happening in that borderland where both worlds meet. Then he that was dead came forth bound in the grave clothes! Jesus said, "Loose him and let him go."
Oh, can you imagine the feelings of that stupefied little crowd! What were they thinking? What were the sisters thinking? What was Lazarus thinking?
I have often wondered why Lazarus did not tell people about that new world of wonder when he had come back. Do you know what I think? That probably he had nothing to tell. Very likely after the strain and struggle of dying, there may be a brief time of repose in which nothing is known, from which one wakens refreshed as a child in the morning. Or maybe he was so dazed and puzzled with that brief sudden sight that he could hardly know at first what had happened to him.
In any case, I suppose he could not make people understand even if he did know. Just think. Could you make a blind man understand the beauty of this world, the glory of the sunset, the colors of the flowers? He does not know what color means. If you said red or green or blue or yellow he would not know what you meant. Or could you tell a stone-deaf man about lovely music? He never heard music. He would not know what you were talking about. I think we poor dull people down here are like the blind, deaf people. We could not understand the wonder of that world even if some angel told us. By and by when we come to live there we shall know. But not yet.
I think of Lazarus as a man dazed by the tremendous thing that had just flashed on him as it were for a moment. Surely he went softly all his days, a quiet silent man with a far-off look in his eyes, like one who has dreamed a wonderful dream and cannot clearly remember.
So Jesus taught again that death was not the end of life. One greater lesson was coming soon, when He Himself came back from the dead and showed us what life and death really mean.
How They Planned To Kill Him
N EXT day all Jerusalem is ringing with the news. The people are wildly excited. In the shops and bazaars nothing else is talked of. Crowds are hurrying along the Bethany road to see the grave of a man who had come back from the other world. For Bethany is only a few miles away. This tremendous thing has happened at their very doors. No one could doubt it.
Of course it roused excitement and enthusiasm about Jesus. But it roused very different feelings in the Pharisees and rulers. Already they hated Him because He had publicly rebuked them and because He said He was the Son of God. Now they were positively frightened after this great miracle. They thought the whole nation might follow Him and perhaps rise in rebellion against them, and that the Roman emperor and the Roman soldiers would come and destroy everything.
That night they called a council in the house of Caiaphas the High Priest They were all angry and excited. What are we to do? This man is doing many miracles. The people are getting out of hand. If we let Him alone all men will believe on Him and the Romans will take away our place and nation."
So they argued and disputed. Some said one thing and some another. But the High Priest soon stopped that. He was a cruel man and hated Jesus. Everyone was silent as he rose in his place.
"Ye know nothing at all," he said. "There is only one way out. Don't you see that it is better that one man should die for the people that the whole nation perish not? There is only one thing to be done. This man must die!"
St. John, who tells the story, catches hold of that expression, "One man must die for the people." Ah, he says, that wicked old priest said a truth without knowing it, that the Lord Jesus must die for the people, and not for them only but for all the children of God scattered through the world.
From that hour Jesus is doomed. They sent out an order that if any man knew where He was he should tell it that they might take Him. They did not know where He was. For after the raising of Lazarus He went quietly back to the lone country places to spend the few remaining weeks with His disciples preparing for the end.
In Jerusalem the excitement was growing every day as the Feast of Passover drew near, when crowds of Jews from all nations would be gathered in the city. Everyone was asking, Will Jesus of Nazareth come? I think the rulers would rather He should not come, for if He did it might be a dangerous time, there was so much excitement about Lazarus.
But Jesus was coming. As the Passover drew near He left His retreat and set forth for Jerusalem to die. St. Mark tells this story which St. Luke had told him. "We were in the way going up to Jerusalem and Jesus went before us and we were amazed, and as we followed we were afraid. And He began to tell us what things should happen to Him."
Just shut your eyes and call up that picture in your mind. A lone mountain-path in the wild country of Ephraim, the frightened disciples with their eyes on Him who walks before them silent, apart. They are feeling all the awe and wonder about Him. They are beginning to know who He is. They feel something is about to happen. They do not know what to expect. Then He stops to tell them. "We are going up to Jerusalem, and there they will condemn Me to death, they will mock Me and spit on Me and kill Me, and the third day I shall rise again from the dead."
They were greatly afraid. Though He had warned them before, they found it hard to believe this. Surely He, who had just raised Lazarus from the dead, could not die now when all were expecting Him to do wonderful things. Yet it was all true. We know more about it now than they did then—that Jesus, the Son of God, who had come down from Heaven, must die for the sake of the poor sinful world that He had come to save.
So Jesus walked on before them with the great thoughts in His heart. And the great spirit-world above and the angels who sang that Christmas song at His birthday watched wonderingly what men were doing to their Lord. And God in Heaven kept silence.
Another wonderful thing was happening that day though the poor frightened disciples were not thinking about it. They had enough to think about. But you might think about it.
That God and the holy angels looking on this lone Jesus going up to Jerusalem to die, could see also the whole Jewish people coming up to meet Him—without knowing it. All the Jews all over the earth were travelling up in hundreds of thousands to the Passover, "Parthians and Medes and Elamites and dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, in Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, strangers from Rome, Cretes and Arabians"—all, without knowing it, coming up to meet that lonely Christ coming along the lonely Ephraim road.
Of course they could not understand any more than the disciples could. But think of the wonder of it. As these vast crowds came up to Jerusalem and were praising God for the great things He had done in the past, a black cross was raised up on Calvary and they saw, without knowing, the greatest thing ever done for them and for the world, God dying for men.
But they did not know. Alas, they did not know!
The End of the Road
T HE story of the Jerusalem road is nearly over. The end of the Road is in sight. Jesus is very near Jerusalem now. In the last chapter we saw Him with His disciples moving along that lonely mountain-path. Next day that path opens into the main broad road from the North, from Galilee to Jerusalem. That road is crowded with pilgrims for the Passover. Many are from Galilee and the disciples would watch out for friends from Capernaum and go on with them talking of home news, talking chiefly about Jesus whom most people are talking about.
In such stories I love to make pictures in my mind, seeing in my mind the people and the roads and the things that are happening. You can do the same. I will show you the pictures in my mind.
First Picture. It is that same evening. I see groups of tired travellers camping for the night. In one field the Capernaum friends have got together and Jesus is with them. There in the moonlight, when the others are asleep, I see a woman draw near to Jesus. We have seen that woman before, two years ago, you remember, in a street in Capernaum walking to church with Zebedee, her husband, and her two fisher sons, James and John, to hear Jesus' first sermon in the new synagogue.
Things have changed since then. Jesus is now very famous and many people think that He will deliver Israel and found a great kingdom. She thinks that too and, like most mothers, she wants good things for her sons. So she comes to Jesus.
"Master, will You do something for me?"
"What wilt thou, mistress, that I should do for thee?"
"Grant that my two sons may sit on Thy right hand and on Thy left hand in Thy kingdom."
Ah, that poor mother! How little she knew what was coming. With kindly pity in His heart, Jesus looks on her and her two sons.
"Ye do not know what ye are asking. Are ye able to drink My cup of pain and be baptized with My baptism of suffering?"
Bravely the two sons reply, "We are able." And Jesus knew they were. He knew they would die for Him if necessary. Later on they did die for Him, both of them. Was He thinking of that when He answered:
"Ye shall indeed drink of My cup and be baptized with My baptism of sorrow, but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give but to those whom it is prepared for."
I see that puzzled mother going back across the fields to her rest, still wondering if her two sons would be at His right hand and His left. Think of the awful shock that was to come to her within a week, to see her Lord dying on His cross of shame and at His right hand and His left two thieves out of the jail! How could she understand that awful mystery of God's love, that Jesus of His own choice was dying on that cross for the sake of the sinful world that He had come to save?
Second Picture. Next day comes my second picture. I see the procession moving on. They are only twelve miles from Jerusalem now. That pilgrim crowd from the North is approaching. Jericho and the townspeople are crushing through the gate to see them. For the news has got abroad that Jesus, who raised Lazarus from the dead, is in that crowd. Jesus who, some people say, is the Messiah of God to deliver Israel from the Roman power. They think of Him as Zebedee's wife did.
In the crush at the gate a blind beggarman is almost trampled down.
"What does it all mean?" he asks.
"Get out of the way, man!" the people reply. "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."
"Jesus of Nazareth!" cries the blind beggar-man all excited. "Did not He cure a blind man in Jerusalem one day?"
Suddenly a wild hope rises in his heart and his whole soul goes out in a desperate cry:
"Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!"
The people try to silence him but nothing can silence him.
"Thou Son of David! Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!"
The shouts of the multitude are drowning his voice. But Jesus hears it, as He always hears you or me or anyone who sorely wants Him. He stopped the whole procession on the spot.
"Bring him here to Me!"
The blind man is brought and Jesus' hand is on his shoulder.
"What wilt thou, my son, that I should do unto thee?"
"Oh, Master, that I may receive my sight!"
"Receive thy sight, my son," said Jesus, and immediately he received his sight and followed Him glorifying God, and all the people when they saw it gave praise to God.
The kindly people were glad for poor blind Bartimeus. And surely Jesus was glad. He did so love doing things like that. And remember that Jesus was God. That is what God is like.
Third Picture. I am watching the procession still as it goes through the main street of Jericho under the trees. And I see the town boys climbing the trees to watch. Boys are like that always. I see a well-dressed man in the crowd straining to see over the shoulders of the crowd. But he is a small man and cannot see much. And though he is a rich man the people will not make way for him. They don't like him. For this is Zaccheus, the publican, the Chief of Customs in Jericho, who makes them pay taxes to the Roman emperor. I have told you how the Jews hated these publicans.
You remember that other publican, Matthew, in the
Capernaum Customs office whom Jesus chose to be His
disciple. I think this brother officer of his in
Jericho knew all about that and wanted to see Matthew's
friend. I think that, like Matthew, he wanted to be
good and was rather ashamed of his trade, a lonely man
with no good friend to talk to. He wanted to see this
famous Jesus, the Great Jew who was not ashamed to make
friends with publicans. So what does he do? He climbs
up the trees with
the boys. It may look ridiculous but he does not care.
Then came his great surprise. Jesus, as He passed,
looked up into the tree and spoke to him as if He had
come to Jericho specially to meet him. "Zaccheus, come
down. I want to stay at your house
So Jesus stayed with him and dined and talked with him. Don't you think Jesus knew the evil in him? Yes, surely. But He knew the good in him too. Think what it meant to that lonely man to have a friend who could understand him, and knew not only his faults but his desire to be good. Surely Zaccheus would never forget that night with Jesus. I suppose he never saw Him again on earth. Only ten days later he heard how his new Friend had been put to a shameful death in Jerusalem.
Have you any doubt that Zaccheus became His faithful follower? Do you know what he said as Jesus bade him good-bye?
"Lord, from this day forward the half of my goods I will give to the poor, and if I have wronged any man I will restore him fourfold."
That is what coming to Jesus means—not mere beliefs or pious talk, but a whole life changed to doing what Jesus would like.
That is all we know about Zaccheus. I once read somewhere an old story about him which may not be true. A very old little man every morning tending the ground around an old sycamore tree near Jericho. "Old man," said a passing stranger one day, "why do you care thus for an old sycamore tree?" "Because," said the old man, and his eyes grew young as he said it, "from the boughs of that tree I first beheld my Lord."
Now we have reached the end of the Road. The procession of pilgrims goes on from Jericho into Jerusalem.