The Sermon on the Mount, Cure of a Paralytic
Jesus rowed with several of the disciples over the lake and landed one hour to the north of Matthew’s. Already many pagans, as well as those whom Jesus had cured and the newly baptized, had repaired to the mountain east of Bethsaida-Julias where Jesus was to teach. All around stood the camps of the pagans. The disciples who had been fishing on the night of the miraculous draught asked Jesus whether they too should go with Him, for their recent success had freed them from anxiety upon the score of provisions, and they felt that all was in His hands. Jesus replied that they should baptize those that were still in Capharnaum, and after that employ their time at their accustomed occupations, as the immense number of strangers then in and around the city rendered extra supplies necessary.
Before crossing the lake, Jesus delivered to His disciples a comprehensive instruction. In it He gave them an idea of the whole plan of the discourses upon which He intended to dwell for a long time. He told them that they (the disciples) were the salt of the earth destined to vivify and preserve others, consequently that they themselves must not lose their savor. Jesus explained all this to them at full length, making use of numerous examples and parables. After that He rowed across the lake.
The disciples (the fishermen) and Saturnin began their work of baptizing in the valley of Capharnaum. The son of the widow of Naim was here baptized and named Martial, Saturnin imposing hands upon him. The holy women did not follow Jesus to the instructions, but remained behind to celebrate with the widow of Naim the baptismal feast of her son.
There were with Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea’s nephews, who had come from Jerusalem; Nathanael; Manahem of Korah; and many other disciples. In these last days I saw about thirty of them gathered together in Capharnaum.
On landing at the east side of the lake just below the mouth of the Jordan, the traveler ascended the mountain to the east and then, turning westward, went on to the spot upon which the instruction was to be given. Another way could be taken, namely, that over the Jordan bridge to the north of the lake. But this latter way, on account of the wild character of the country and its numerous ravines, was rather a difficult road to the mountain. Bethsaida-Julias was situated on the eastern bank of the mouth of the Jordan, the river there forming a bend. The western shore was high, and to it ran a road.
There was no teacher’s chair on the mountain, only an eminence surrounded by a mound of earth and covered by an awning. The view from the west and southwest extended over the lake and to the opposite mountains. One could even descry Mount Thabor. Crowds of people, most of them pagans that had received Baptism, were encamped around. There were Jews also present. Separation between them was not so rigorously observed here, since communication between the Jews and Gentiles was greater in these parts, and on this side of the lake the latter enjoyed certain privileges.
Jesus began by enumerating the Eight Beatitudes, and then went on to explain the first: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” He related examples and parables, spoke of the Messiah, and especially of the conversion of the Gentiles. Now was accomplished what the Prophet foretold of the Desired of Nations: “And I will move all nations. and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.” 2:8). There was no curing on this day, for the sick had been healed on the preceding days. The Pharisees had come over in one of their own boats and they listened to Jesus’ words with chagrin and jealousy. The people had brought with them food, which they ate during the pauses of the instruction. Jesus and the disciples had fish, bread, and honey, also little flasks of some kind of juice, or balm, a few drops of which were mixed with the water they drank.
Toward evening the people from Capharnaum, Bethsaida, and other neighboring places returned to their homes in the boats that awaited them on the lake. Jesus and His disciples went down toward the valley of the Jordan and into a shepherd inn, where they passed the night. Jesus still continued to teach the disciples, thus to prepare them for their future mission.
Jesus devoted fourteen days to instructions on the Eight Beatitudes, and spent the intervening Sabbath in Capharnaum.
On the following day He continued His preaching on the mountain. Mary, Mary Cleophas, Maroni of Naim, and two other women were present. When Jesus with the Apostles and disciples went back to the lake, He spoke of their vocation in these words: “Ye are the light of the world!” He illustrated by the similitude of the city seated on a mountain, the light on the candlestick, and the fulfilling of the Law. Then He rowed to Bethsaida, and put up at Andrew’s.
Among the neophytes whom Saturnin baptized on those days near Capharnaum were some Jews from Achaia whose ancestors had fled thither at the time of the Babylonian Captivity.
Bethsaida-Julias was a recently built city inhabited mostly by pagans. There were, however, some Jews, and the city possessed a famous school in which all kinds of knowledge were taught. Jesus had not yet visited it, but the inhabitants went out to the instruction and also to Capharnaum, where their sick were cured. Bethsaida-Julias was beautifully situated in the narrow valley of the Jordan, built a little up on the eastern side of the mountain, one-half hour from the point where the river flows into the lake. One hour northward, a stone bridge spanned the Jordan.
While going down from the mountain whereon He had been teaching, Jesus again instructed the disciples, and spoke of the sufferings and sharp persecutions in store for them. He slept that night in Peter’s barque.
When Jesus next day went down from the mountain to Capharnaum, He found a crowd of people assembled to bid Him welcome. He repaired to Peter’s house near the city. It stood outside the gate to the right on entering the city from the valley. When it was known that Jesus and the disciples were in the house, a crowd soon gathered around Him. The Scribes and Pharisees also hastened out to hear Him. The whole court around the open hall in which Jesus sat and taught with the disciples and Scribes was full. He spoke of the Ten Commandments and, coming to the words recorded in the Gospel of the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill,” He based upon them His instruction on the forgiveness of injuries and the love of one’s enemies. Just at this moment a loud noise arose on the roof of the hall, and through the usual opening in the ceiling a paralytic on his bed was lowered by four men, who cried out: “Lord, have pity upon a poor sick man!” He was let down by two cords into the midst of the assembly before Jesus. The friends of the sick man had tried in vain to carry him through the crowd into the courtyard, and had at last mounted the outside steps to the roof of the hall, whose trap door they opened. All eyes were fixed upon the invalid, and the Pharisees were vexed at what appeared to them a great misdemeanor, a piece of unheard-of impertinence. But Jesus, who was pleased at the faith of the poor people, stepped forward and addressed the paralytic, who lay there motionless: “Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee!” words which were, as usual, particularly distasteful to the Pharisees. They thought within themselves: “That is blasphemy! Who but God can forgive sins?” Jesus saw their thoughts and said: “Wherefore have ye such thoughts of bitterness in your heart? Which is easier to say to the paralytic: Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say: Arise, take up thy bed, and walk? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins, I say to thee” (here Jesus turned to the paralytic): “Arise! Take up thy bed, and go into thy house!” And immediately the man arose cured, rolled up the coverlets of his bed, laid the laths of the frame together, took them under his arm and upon his shoulder, and accompanied by those that had brought him and some other friends went off singing canticles of praise while the whole multitude shouted for joy. The Pharisees, full of rage, slipped away, one by one. It was now the Sabbath, and Jesus, followed by the multitude, repaired to the synagogue.
Jairus and His Daughter. Her Relapse. Cure of a Woman Afflicted With an Issue of Blood, of Two Blind Men, and of a Pharisee
Jairus, the Chief of the synagogue, was also present at that last miracle in the synagogue. He was very sad and full of remorse. His daughter was again near death, and truly a frightful death, as it had fallen upon her in punishment of her own and her parents’ sins. Since the preceding Sabbath she had lain ill of a fever. The mother and her sister together with Jairus’ mother, who all lived in the same house, had, along with the daughter herself, taken Jesus’ miraculous healing in a very frivolous way, without gratitude and without in any way altering their life. Jairus, weak and yielding, entirely under the control of his vain and beautiful wife, had let the women have their own way. Their home was the theater of female vanity, and all the latest pagan styles of finery were brought into requisition for their adornment. When the little girl was well again, these women laughed among themselves at Jesus and turned Him into ridicule. The child followed their example. Until very recently she had retained her innocence, but now it was no longer so. A violent fever seized upon her. The burning and thirst that she had endured were something extraordinary; the last week was spent in a state of constant delirium, and she now lay near death. The parents suspected that it was a punishment of their frivolity, though they would not acknowledge it to themselves. At last the mother became so ashamed and so frightened that she said to Jairus: “Will Jesus again have pity on us?” and she commissioned her husband once more humbly to implore His assistance. But Jairus was ashamed to appear again before the Lord, so he waited till the Sabbath instructions were over. He had full faith that Jesus could help him at any time, if He would. He was too ashamed to be seen by the people again asking for help.
When Jesus was leaving the synagogue, a great crowd pressed around Him, for there were many, both sick and well, who wanted to speak to Him. Jairus approached with trouble on his countenance. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet, and begged Him again to have pity on his daughter whom he had left in a dying state. Jesus promised that He would return with him. And now there came someone from Jairus’ house looking for him, because he stayed so long, and the mother of the girl thought that Jesus would not come. The messenger told Jairus that his daughter was already dead. Jesus comforted the father and told him to have confidence, It was already dark, and the crowd around Jesus was very great. Just then a woman afflicted with an issue of blood, taking advantage of the darkness, made her way through the crowd, leaning on the arms of her nurses. She dwelt not far from the synagogue. The women afflicted with the same malady, though not so grievously as herself, had told her of their own cure some hours earlier. They had that day at noon, when Jesus was passing in the midst of the crowd, ventured to touch His garments, and were thereby instantly cured. Their words roused her faith. She hoped in the dusk of evening and in the throng that would gather round Jesus on leaving the synagogue, to be able to touch Him unnoticed. Jesus knew her thoughts and consequently slackened His pace. The nurses led her as close to Him as possible. Standing near her were her daughter, her husband’s uncle, and Lea. The sufferer knelt down, leaned forward supporting herself on one hand, and with the other reaching through the crowd she touched the hem of Jesus’ robe. Instantly she felt that she was healed. Jesus at the same moment halted, glanced around at the disciples, and inquired: “Who hath touched Me?” To which Peter answered: “Thou askest, ‘Who touched Me?’ The people throng and press upon Thee, as Thou seest!” But Jesus responded: “Someone hath touched Me, for I know that virtue is gone out from Me.” Then He looked around and, as the crowd had fallen back a step, the woman could not longer remain hidden. Quite abashed, she approached Him timidly, fell on her knees before Him, and acknowledged in hearing of the whole crowd what she had done. Then she related how long she had suffered from the bloody flux, and that she believed herself healed by the touch of His garment. Turning to Jesus, she begged Him to forgive her. Then Jesus addressed to her these words: “Be comforted, My daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole! Go in peace, and remain free from thy infirmity!” and she departed with her friends.
She was thirty years old, very thin and pale, and was named Enue. Her deceased husband was a Jew. She had only one daughter, who had been taken charge of by her uncle. He had now come to the Baptism, accompanied by his niece and a sister-in-law named Lea. The husband of the latter was a Pharisee and an enemy of Jesus. Enue had, in her widowhood, wished to enter into a connection which to her rich relatives appeared far below her position; therefore they had opposed her.
Jesus with rapid steps accompanied Jairus to his house. Peter, James, John, Saturnin and Matthew were with Him. In the fore court were again gathered the mourners and weepers, but this time they uttered no word of mockery, nor did Jesus say as He did before: “She is only sleeping,” but passed on straight through the crowd. Jairus’ mother, his wife, and her sister came timidly forth to meet Him. They were veiled and in tears; their robes, the garments of mourning. Jesus left Saturnin and Matthew with the people in the forecourt, while accompanied by Peter, James, and John, the father, the mother, and the grandmother, He entered the room in which the dead girl lay. It was a different room from the first time. Then she lay in a little chamber; now she was in the room behind the fireplace. Jesus called for a little branch from the garden and a basin of water, which He blessed. The corpse lay stiff and cold. It did not present so agreeable an appearance as on the former occasion. Then I had seen the soul hovering in a sphere of light close to the body, but this time I did not see it at all. On the former occasion, Jesus said: “She is sleeping,” but now He said nothing. She was dead. With the little branch Jesus sprinkled her with the blessed water, prayed, took her by the hand, and said: “Little maid, I say to thee, arise!” As Jesus was praying, I saw the girl’s soul in a dark globe approaching her mouth, into which it entered. She suddenly opened her eyes, obeyed the touch of Jesus’ hand, arose and stepped from her couch. Jesus led her to her parents who, receiving her with hot tears and choking sobs, sank at Jesus’ feet. He ordered them to give her something to eat, some bread and grapes. His order was obeyed. The girl ate and began to speak. Then Jesus earnestly exhorted the parents to receive the mercy of God thankfully, to turn away from vanity and worldly pleasure, to embrace the penance preached to them, and to beware of again compromising their daughter’s life now restored for the second time. He reproached them with their whole manner of living, with the levity they had exhibited at the reception of the first favor bestowed upon them, and their conduct afterward, by which in a short time they had exposed their child to a much more grievous death than that of the body, namely, the death of the soul. The little girl herself was very much affected and shed tears. Jesus warned her against concupiscence of the eyes and sin. While she partook of the grapes and the bread that He had blessed, He told her that for the future she should no longer live according to the flesh, but that she should eat of the Bread of Life, the Word of God, should do penance, believe, pray, and perform works of mercy. The parents were very much moved and completely transformed. The father promised to break the bonds that bound him to worldliness, and to obey Jesus’ orders, while the mother and the rest of the family, who had now come in, expressed their determination to reform their lives. They shed tears and gave thanks to Jesus. Jairus, entirely changed, immediately made over a great part of his possessions to the poor. The daughter’s name was Salome.
As a crowd had gathered before the house, Jesus told Jairus that they should make no unnecessary reports concerning what had just taken place. He often gave this command to those whom He cured, and that for various reasons. The chief was that the divulging and boasting of such favors troubles the recollection of the soul and prevents its reflection upon the mercy of God. Jesus desired that the cured should enter into themselves instead of running about enjoying the new life that had been given them, and thereby falling an easy prey to sin. Another reason for enjoining silence was that Jesus wanted to impress upon the disciples the necessity of avoiding vainglory and of performing the good they did through love and for God alone. Sometimes again, He made use of this prohibition in order not to increase the number of the inquisitive, the importunate, and the sick who came to Him not by the impulse of faith. Many indeed came merely to test His power, and then they fell back into their sins and infirmities, as Jairus’ daughter had done.
Jesus and His five disciples left Jairus’ house by the rear, in order to escape the crowd that pressed around the door. The first miracle here was performed in clear daylight; that of today was after the Sabbath and by the light of lamps. Jairus’ house was in the northern part of the city. Jesus, on leaving it, turned to the northwest off toward the ramparts. Meanwhile two blind men with their guides were on the lookout for His coming. It seemed almost as if they scented His presence, for they followed after Him, crying: “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have pity on us!” At that moment Jesus went into the house of a good man who was devoted to Him. The house was built in the rampart and had on the other side a door opening into the country beyond the city precincts. The disciples sometimes stopped at this house. Its owner was one of the guards in this section of the city. The blind men, however, still followed Jesus, and even into the house, crying in beseeching tones: “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” At last Jesus turned to them and said: “Do you believe that I can do this unto you?” and they answered: “Yea, Lord!” Then He took from His pocket a little flask of oil, or balsam, and poured some into a small dish, brown and shallow. Holding it and the flask in His left hand, with the right He put into the dish a little earth, mixed it up with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand, touched the eyes of the blind men with the same, and said: “May it be done unto you according to your desire!” Their eyes were opened, they saw, they fell on their knees and gave thanks. To them also Jesus recommended silence as to what had just taken place. This He did to prevent the crowd from following Him and to avoid exasperating the Pharisees. The cries of the blind men as they followed Him had, however, already betrayed His presence in this part of the country, and besides this, the two men could not forbear imparting their happiness to all whom they met. A crowd was in consequence soon gathered around Jesus.
Some people from the region of Sephoris, distant relatives of Anne, brought hither a man possessed of a dumb devil. His hands were bound, and they led him and pulled him along by cords tied around his body, for he was perfectly furious and oftentimes scandalous in his behavior. He was one of those Pharisees that had formed a committee to spy the actions of Jesus. He was named Joas, and belonged to the number of those that had disputed with Jesus in an isolated school between Sephoris and Nazareth. When Jesus returned from Naim, that is about fourteen days before, the demon seized upon Joas, because, silencing his own interior convictions, he had, through sheer adulation of the other Pharisees, joined in the calumnious cry against Jesus: “He is possessed by the devil! He runs like a madman about the country!” It was on the subject of divorce that Jesus had disputed with him at Sephoris. The man was in grievous sin. As he was led up, he made an attempt to rush upon Jesus, but He, with a motion of the hand, commanded the devil to withdraw. The man shuddered, and a black vapor issued from his mouth. Then he sank on his knees before Jesus, confessed his sins, and begged forgiveness. Jesus pardoned him, and enjoined certain fasts and alms as a penance. He had likewise to abstain for a long time from several kinds of food of which the Jews were exceedingly fond, garlic for instance. The excitement produced by this cure was very great, for it was considered a most difficult thing to drive out dumb devils. The Pharisees had already put themselves to much trouble on Joas’ account. Were it not that he was brought by his friends, he never would have appeared before Jesus, for the Pharisees would not have permitted it. Now indeed were they indignant that one of their own number had been helped by Jesus and had openly avowed his sins, in which they themselves had had a share. As the cured man was returning to his home, the news of his deliverance was spread throughout Capharnaum, and the people everywhere proclaimed that such wonders had never before been heard in Israel. But the Pharisees in their fury retorted: “By the prince of devils, He casteth out devils.”
Jesus now left the house by the back door, and with Him the disciples. They went around to Peter’s on the west side and a little distant from the city, and here Jesus spent the night.
During these days Jesus repeated to His disciples His testimony of John the Baptist. “He is,” He said, “as pure as an angel. Nothing unclean has ever entered his mouth, nor has an untruth or anything sinful ever come forth from it.” When the disciples asked Jesus whether John had long to live, Jesus answered that he would die when his time came, and that was not far off. This information made them very sad.
Cure of a Man with a Withered Hand. “Blessed is the Womb that Bore Thee!”
When Jesus went to the synagogue to teach, the Pharisees laid a snare for Him. In a corner of the synagogue was a poor creature with a withered hand. He had not ventured to appear before Jesus, and now held back, intimidated by the presence of the Pharisees. These latter were reproaching Jesus, asking Him how He could make His appearance with a publican like Matthew. To this Jesus responded that He had come to console and convert sinners, but that no Pharisee should ever be numbered among His disciples. The Pharisees mockingly retorted: “Master, here is one for whom Thou hast come. Perhaps, Thou wilt heal him also.” Thereupon Jesus commanded the man with the withered hand to come forward and stand in the midst of the assembly. He did so, and Jesus said to him: “Thy sins are forgiven thee!” The Pharisees, who scorned the poor man—whose reputation was not of the best—cried out: “His withered hand has never hindered him from sinning.” Then Jesus grasped the hand, straightened the fingers, and said: “Use thy hand!” The man stretched out his hand, found it cured, and went away giving thanks. Jesus justified him against the calumnies of the Pharisees, expressed compassion for him, and declared him a good-hearted fellow. The Pharisees were covered with confusion and filled with wrath. They declared Jesus a Sabbath-breaker against whom they would lodge an accusation, and then took their departure. In the neighborhood of the synagogue they met some Herodians with whom they consulted as to how they should lie in wait for Jesus on the next feast in Jerusalem.
When Jesus later on addressed the people in Peter’s house, among the other women present was Lea, the sister-in-law of Enue, recently cured of the issue of blood. Her husband was a Pharisee and a zealous opponent of Jesus, but Lea herself was profoundly impressed by the instructions she had heard. I saw her at first, calm and sorrowful, often changing her place among the crowd, as if looking for someone, but I found out that she was in this way obeying the impulse that prompted her to proclaim aloud her reverence for Jesus. Then approached the Mother of Jesus accompanied by several women, namely, Martha, Susanna of Jerusalem, Dina the Samaritan, and Susanna Alpheus, a daughter of Mary Cleophas and sister of the Apostles. She was about thirty and had grown children. Her husband lived in Nazareth, and it was there that she had joined the holy women. Susanna Cleophas desired to be admitted among the Community of women that rendered service to Jesus and His disciples. Mary and her companions entered the court that led to the hall in which Jesus was teaching. He had been reproaching the Pharisees with their hypocrisy and impurity and, because He always interwove some of the Beatitudes with His other teachings, He just at that moment exclaimed: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God!” Lea, meanwhile, seeing Mary coming in, could no longer restrain herself and, as if intoxicated with joy, she cried out from among the crowd: “More blessed” (these are the exact words that I heard) “more blessed the womb that bore Thee and the breasts that gave Thee suck!” To which I saw Jesus quietly replying: “And far more blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it!” and He went on with His discourse. Lea went to Mary, saluted her, spoke of Enue’s cure and of her own resolve to give her wealth to the Community, and requested Mary to intercede with her Son for her husband’s conversion. He was a Pharisee of Paneas. Mary conversed with her in a low voice. She had not heard Lea’s sudden exclamation nor Jesus’ reply, and soon she withdrew with the women.
Mary was possessed of admirable simplicity. Jesus never showed her any marks of distinction before others, excepting that He treated her with reverence. She never had much to do with any, unless with the sick and the ignorant, and her demeanor was always marked by humility, recollection, and simplicity. All, even the enemies of Jesus, honored her; and yet she never sought after anyone, but was always quiet and alone.
Jesus went next to Peter’s fishery where, before a great crowd of people, He taught in parables of the Kingdom of God. Then He mounted His little barque and taught from the lake. A Scribe from Nazareth named Saraseth proposed himself as a disciple, when Jesus repeated to him the words: “The foxes have their holes, etc.” Saraseth afterward married Salome, the daughter of Jairus. After Jesus’ death, both husband and wife joined the Community.
Besides this Scribe, there were two others who for some time followed Jesus as disciples. One of them asked Him whether He would not soon take possession of His Kingdom, for He had already sufficiently proved His mission. Would He not soon seat Himself upon the throne of David? Jesus having reprimanded him and ordered him to follow Him with docility, he replied that he would first go and take leave of his family. To this Jesus responded: “Whoever puts his hands to the plough, etc.” A third, who had joined Jesus at Sephoris, expressed his wish to go and bury his father. Jesus replied: “Let the dead bury their dead.” These words were not spoken literally, for his father was not yet dead. It was an expression which meant receiving one’s share of the patrimony and providing for one’s parents.
Jesus spent that night on the mountain near Corozain with two of the disciples, under a tent and in prayer. The other disciples came next morning to the sermon. Jesus explained today the fourth Beatitude and this passage from Isaias: “Behold My servant, I will uphold him: My elect, My soul delighteth in him. I have given My Spirit upon him, he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” The multitude was very great. There was present a troop of Roman soldiers from the different garrisons around the country. They had been sent to hear Jesus’ doctrines, to note His bearing, and to give information on the same. From Gaul and other provinces of the Empire they had written to Rome for news of the Prophet of Judea, because this last named country was under the Roman sway. Rome had in consequence made inquiries of the officers of the different garrisons, and these latter had now sent about a hundred of their trusty soldiers, who stood where they could both see and hear well.
The instruction over, Jesus went with the disciples down the mountain to the valley on the south. Here there was a spring, and here too had bread and fish been prepared by the holy women who devoted themselves to such services. The multitude had encamped on the mountainside. Many of them were without provisions, and they sent some of their number to beg food of the disciples. The bread and fish were arranged in baskets on a grassy mound. Jesus blessed the baskets and helped the disciples to distribute their contents to all that asked. It was apparently far from enough, and yet all received what they needed. I heard the people saying: “It is multiplied in His hands.” The Roman soldiers also asked for some of the blessed bread, for they wanted to send it to Rome as a testimony of what they had seen and heard. Jesus ordered what remained to be given to them, and there was still enough for all the leaders. They wrapped it up carefully and took it away with them.
Jesus in Magdala and Gergesa. The Demon Driven into the Swine
In the intervals of His public teaching and curing, Jesus, whenever He found Himself alone with His Apostles and disciples, prepared them for their mission. Today He led The Twelve to a retired spot near the lake, placed them in the order mentioned in the Gospel, and conferred upon them the power of healing and of casting out devils. To the other disciples, He gave only the power to baptize and impose hands. At the same time, He addressed to them a touching discourse in which He promised to be with them always and to share with them all that He possessed. The power to heal and to drive out the devil, Jesus bestowed in the form of a blessing. All wept, and Jesus Himself was very much moved. At the close He said that there was still much to be done and then they would go to Jerusalem, for the fullness of time was drawing near. The Apostles were glowing with enthusiasm. They expressed their readiness to do all that He would command and to remain true to Him. Jesus replied that there were afflictions and hardships in store for them, and that evil would glide in among them. By these words He alluded to Judas. With discourses such as the above, they reached their little barques. Jesus and The Twelve, with about five of the disciples, among them Saturnin, rowed to the east bank of the lake, down past Hippos, and landed near the little village of Magdala. This place lay close to the lake and north of the dark ravine into which flowed the waters from the pool near Gergesa, higher up the country. To the east of Magdala rose a mountain. The village was built so near to it that it enjoyed the benefit of only the midday and evening sun; it was consequently damp and foggy, especially in the neighborhood of the ravine.
Jesus and His disciples did not at once enter Magdala. Peter’s barque was lying near a sandbank to which extended a bridge. As soon as Jesus stepped on shore, several possessed came running toward Him with loud cries. They asked what He wanted there, and cried out for Him to leave them in peace. This they did of their own accord. Jesus delivered them. They gave thanks, and went into the village. And now others came, bringing with them other possessed. Some of the disciples, Peter, Andrew, John, James and his cousins then went into Magdala, where they delivered the possessed and cured many sick, among others some women attacked by convulsions. They drove out devils and commanded sickness to disappear in the Name of Jesus of Nazareth. I heard some of them adding the words, “Whom the storm of the sea obeyed.” Some of those that were cured by the disciples went to Jesus to hear His admonitions and instructions. He explained to them and to the disciples why the possessed were so very numerous in these parts. It was because the inhabitants were so intent upon the things of this world and so given up to the indulgence of their passions. Several of these possessed were from Gergesa, which lay up on the mountain about one hour to the east of Magdala. They infested the surrounding country, hiding in the caves and tombs. Jesus continued the cures until after twilight, and then spent the night on the barque with the disciples.
From the region of Gergesa, which had a circumference of about four hours, none had attended Jesus’ instructions on the mountain.
On the following day Jesus climbed the mountain, and encountered two Jewish youths who had come from Gergesa to meet Him. They were possessed by the devil. They were not furious, though the attacks of the evil one were frequent, and they roved restlessly about. When Jesus some time before had crossed the Jordan from Tarichea and passed Gerasa, these young men were not yet possessed. They had then come out to meet Him and begged to be received among His disciples, but Jesus sent them away. Now again, after Jesus had delivered them, they desired to be received by Him. They told Him that the misfortune from which He had just freed them never would have overtaken them if He had yielded to their first request. Jesus exhorted them to amendment of life, and bade them return home and announce by what means their deliverance had been effected. The youths obeyed. As Jesus went along, pausing here and there to teach before the huts and homes of the shepherds, many possessed and simpletons ran hiding behind the hedges and hills, crying after Him and making signs for Him to keep off and not disturb their peace. But Jesus called them to Him, and delivered them. Many of those thus freed cried out, imploring Him not to drive them into the abyss! Some of the Apostles also performed cures by the imposition of hands, and engaged the people to repair to the mountain beyond Magdala to the south, where Jesus was going to deliver an instruction.
A great crowd assembled at the place designated. Jesus exhorted them to penance, spoke of the near approach of the Kingdom of God, and reproached them with clinging to the goods of this world. He spoke also of the value of the soul. They should know, He said, that God prizes the soul more highly than man’s great, worldly possessions. By these last words, Jesus made reference to the herd of swine which was soon to be precipitated into the lake, for the people had invited Jesus to go again to Gergesa. To this invitation Jesus replied that He would indeed accept it, but that His coming would be an untimely one for them, and that they would not give Him a very warm welcome. They begged Him not to traverse the ravine on His return to them, for there were two furious possessed roaming about in it who had broken their chains and had already strangled some people. But Jesus responded that on that very account He would, when it was time, go that way, for He had been sent upon earth for the sake of the miserable. It was at this conjuncture that He uttered the passage in which it is said, “If Sodom and Gomorrha had heard and seen the things that have taken place here in Galilee, they would have done penance.”
When Jesus was about to depart, the people prayed Him to tarry awhile longer, for never had they heard so pleasing a discourse. It was, they said, like the morning sunbeams shining upon their gloomy, foggy home. They begged Him to remain, for it was already dark. To this Jesus replied in a similitude on the darkness: He feared not this darkness, but they should dread remaining in eternal darkness, and that at a time in which the light of the Word of God had shone upon them. Then He retired to the ships with the disciples. They rowed at first as if directing their course across to Tiberias, but then turned again to the east, lay to about one hour south of the ravine, and spent the night on their ships.
Magdala was an unimportant place, smaller than Bethsaida. It was only a landing place for boats, and derived its subsistence from Hippos, which was largely engaged in trade and commerce. A highroad ran past Gerasa and down to Hippos, and was the scene of constant traffic. The country of Magdala was known also as the country of Dalmanutha, from the town that lay a couple of hours further to the south and on the other side of the ravine.
When Jesus landed next morning, several demoniacs were presented to Him, and He cured them by laying His hands upon them. The people of this region practiced sorcery. They ate of a certain herb that grew abundantly in the ravine and on the mountain, and thus became intoxicated and fell into convulsions. They had another plant of which they made use to counteract the effects of the first, but for some time past it had lost its virtue and now the poor creatures were left in their misery. The country of the Gergeseans was a tract of land from four to five hours in length, and about a half-hour in breadth. It was distinguished from the surrounding districts by its history and the character of its inhabitants, which latter was not of the best. It began with the ravine between Dalmanutha and Magdala, included the ravine, and on the south began with and comprised ten villages scattered in a row along the narrow strip of land, with Gergesa and Gerasa at either end. Beyond Gerasa it was bounded by the region of Corozain, the land of Zin, and a district containing many deserts. On the east it was bounded by the long mountain ridge on whose southern extremity stood the citadel of Gamala; on the south, by the ravine; and on the west, the valley on the shore of the lake. In this valley lay Dalmanutha, Magdala, and Hippos, which did not belong to the country of Gergesa, no more than the rest of the lakeshore, excepting the ravine to the south of Magdala. On the north it ended with Corozain. This district with its ten villages must not be confounded with the Decapolis, or that of the ten cities, which extended far around it and from which it was wholly distinct. In Gedeon’s struggle against the Madianites, the inhabitants of the ten villages supported the pagans who since that time had acquired the upper hand and kept the Jews in great subjection. They raised in all these places, to the scandal of the Jews that dwelt there, immense numbers of swine, which in herds of several thousands were turned out to fatten in a great marsh on the northern height of the ravine. They were attended by a hundred heathen herdsmen and their boys. The marsh, which was about three quarters of an hour southeast of Gergesa, at the foot of the mountain of Gamala, discharged its boggy waters south-ward into the ravine over a dam of logs and heavy planks that changed the brook above it into a swamp. The superfluous waters flowed through the ravine into the Sea of Galilee. Numbers of huge oaks grew near the marsh and on the sides of the ravine. No part of this region was very fertile, and only in a few sunny places grew some vines. They had also a kind of reed from which sugar can be made, but they exported it in its crude state.
It was not so much their idolatrous worship that subjected the people of this region to the power of the devil, as the depth to which they were sunk in sorcery. Gergesa and the surrounding places were full of wizards and witches who carried on their disorders by means of cats, dogs, toads, snakes, and other animals. They conjured up these creatures, and even went around in their form injuring and killing men. They were like werewolves that can hurt people even at a distance, that take revenge after a long time upon those whom they hate, and that can raise storms at sea. The women used to brew some kind of a magical beverage. Satan had entirely conquered this region, which possessed innumerable demoniacs, raging lunatics, and victims of convulsions.
It was approaching ten in the morning when Jesus with some of the disciples mounted a little boat, crossed the brook some distance up to the stream, and rowed into the ravine. This was a shorter way than that by land. Jesus climbed the northern side of the ravine, and the disciples joined Him one after another. While He was ascending, two raging possessed higher up on the mountain were running about, darting in and out of the sepulchers, casting themselves on the ground, and beating themselves with the bones of the dead. They uttered horrible cries and appeared to be under the spell of some secret influence, for they could not flee. As Jesus drew nearer, they cried out from behind the bushes and rocks that lay a little higher up on the mountain: “Ye Powers! Ye Dominations! Come to our aid! Here comes One stronger than we!” Jesus raised His hand toward them and commanded them to lie down. They fell flat on their faces, but raising their heads again, cried out: “Jesus! Thou Son of God the Most High, what have we to do with Thee? Why art Thou come to torment us before the time? We conjure Thee in the name of God to leave us in peace!” By this time Jesus and the disciples had reached them as they lay trembling, their whole persons horribly agitated. Jesus ordered the disciples to give them some clothing, and commanded the possessed to cover themselves. The disciples threw to them the scarves they wore around their necks and in which they were accustomed to muffle their heads. The possessed, trembling and writhing convulsively, covered themselves, as if constrained to do so against their will, arose, and cried out to Jesus not to torture them, Jesus asked: “How many are ye?” They answered, “Legion.” The wicked spirits spoke always in the plural by the mouth of these two possessed. They said that the evil desires of these men were innumerable. This time the devil spoke the truth. For seventeen years these men had lived in communication with him, and in the practice of sorcery. Now and then they had suffered assaults like the present, but for the last two years they had been running, frantic, around the desert. They had been entangled in all the abominations of magic.
Nearby was a vineyard on a sunny slope, and in it an immense wooden vat formed of great beams. It was not quite the height of a man, but so broad that twenty men could stand in it. The Gergeseans used to press in it grapes mixed with the juice of that intoxicating herb of which I have spoken. The juice ran into little troughs and thence into large, earthen vessels with narrow necks which, when full, were buried underground in the vineyard. This was that intoxicating beverage which produced effects so fatal upon all that drank of it. The herb was about the length of one’s arm, with numerous thick green leaves one above the other, and it terminated in a bud. The people of these parts used the juice in order to rouse in themselves diabolical ecstasies. On account of its inebriating vapors, the drink was prepared in the open air, though during the operation a tent was erected over the vat. The pressmen were just coming to their work when Jesus commanded the possessed, or rather the legion in them, to overturn the vat. The two men seized the great, full vat, turned it upside down without the least difficulty, the contents streamed around, and the workmen fled with cries of terror. The possessed, trembling and shuddering, returned to Jesus, and the disciples also were very much frightened. The devil now cried out by the mouth of the possessed, begging Jesus not yet to cast them into the abyss, not yet to drive them from this region, and ended by the request: “Let us go into yonder swine!” Jesus replied: “Ye may go!” At these words the two miserable possessed sank down in violent convulsions, and a whole cloud of vapors issued from their bodies in numberless forms of insects, toads, worms, and chiefly mole-crickets.
A few moments after, there arose from the herds of swine sounds of grunting and raging, and from the herdsmen shouts and cries. The swine, some thousands in number, came rushing from all quarters and plunged down through the bushes on the mountainside. It was like a furious tempest, mingled with the cries and bellowings of animals. This scene was not the work of a few minutes only. It lasted a couple of hours, for the swine rushed here and there, plunging headlong and biting one another. Numbers precipitated themselves into the marsh and were swept down over the waterfall, and all went raging toward the lake.
The disciples looked on disquieted, fearing lest the waters in which they fished, as well as the fish themselves, would be rendered impure. Jesus divined their thoughts, and told them not to fear, since the swine would all go down into the whirlpool at the end of the ravine. There was at this place a great pool of stagnant water completely separated from the lake by a sandbank, or strip of shore. It was overgrown with reeds and bushes, and at high water was frequently submerged. This pool was a deep abyss which, through the sandbank, had an inlet from the lake, but no outlet into the same, and in it was a whirlpool. It was into this caldron the swine plunged. The herdsmen who had, at first, run after the animals, now came back to Jesus, saw the possessed who had been delivered, heard all that had happened, and then began to complain loudly of the injury done them. But Jesus replied that the salvation of these two souls was worth more than all the swine in the world. Then He bade them go to the owners of the swine and say that the devil, whom the godlessness of the inhabitants of this country sent into men, had by Him been driven out of the men, and that they had gone into the swine! The possessed who had been delivered, Jesus sent to their homes to procure clothing, while He Himself with the disciples went up toward Gergesa. Several of the herdsmen had already run to the city and, in consequence of the reports they spread, people came pouring out from all sides. They that had been cured at Magdala, as well as the two Jewish youths cured the day before, and most of the Jews of the city, had assembled to wait for Jesus’ coming. The two possessed, now cured, came back in a short time decently clothed, to hear Jesus’ preaching. They were distinguished pagans belonging to the city, relatives of some of the pagan priests.
The people employed in preparing the wine mentioned above, and whose full vat had been overturned, were also running about the city, publishing everywhere the loss they had sustained at the hands of the possessed. This gave rise to great alarm and uproar. Many ran to see whether they could rescue some of the swine, while others hurried out to the wine cask. The confusion lasted until after nightfall.
Jesus meanwhile was instructing on a hill about one-half hour from Gergesa. But the chief men of the city and the pagan priests sought to keep the people from Him by telling them that Jesus was a mighty sorcerer through whom great evils would come upon them. When they had taken counsel together, they sent out a deputation to Jesus with instructions to hasten and beg Him not to tarry in those parts and not to do them still greater injury. The deputies added that they recognized in Him a great magician, but begged Him to withdraw from their boundaries. They sorely lamented their swine and the overturning of their brewing vat. Their fright and amazement were extreme when they beheld the two possessed, cured and clothed, sitting among the listeners at Jesus’ feet. Jesus bade them dismiss their fears, because He would not trouble them long. He had come for the sake of the poor sick and possessed alone, since He knew well that the unclean swine and the infamous beverage were of more value to them than the salvation of their souls. But the Father in Heaven, who had given to Him the power to rescue the poor people before Him and to destroy the swine, judged otherwise. Then He held up to them all their infamy, their sinful dealing in sorcery, their dishonest gains, and their demonolatry. He called them to penance, to Baptism, and offered them salvation. But they had the injury done them, the loss of the swine, in their heads, and so persisted in their pressing, though half-frightened request, that He would go away. After that they returned to the city.
Judas Iscariot was particularly busy and active among the Gergeseans, for he was well-known in these parts. His mother had dwelt here with him for some time when he was still young, and just after he had run away from the family in which he had been secretly reared. The two possessed were acquaintances of his youth.
The Jews rejoiced in secret over the loss sustained by the Gentiles in their swine, for they were very much oppressed by them and greatly scandalized on account of the unclean animals. Still there were many among them who lived on easy terms with the pagans and defiled themselves with their superstitious practices.
All that had been cured on that day and the day before, as also the two possessed, were baptized by the disciples. They were very much impressed and thoroughly changed. The two possessed last delivered and the two Jewish youths entreated Jesus to allow them to remain with Him and be His disciples. To the two last delivered, Jesus replied that He would give them a commission, namely, they should go through the ten villages of the Gergeseans, show themselves everywhere, and everywhere relate what had happened to them, what they had heard and seen, call the inhabitants to penance and Baptism, and send them to Him. He added that they should not be troubled if they were greeted by a shower of stones from those whom they addressed. If they executed this commission properly, they should receive in recompense the spirit of prophecy. Then they would always know where to find Him, in order to send thither those that desired to hear His teachings, and they should impose hands on the sick, who would thereby be healed. Having thus spoken, Jesus blessed the two young men, who on the next day began their mission, and later on became disciples.
The Apostles in baptizing here used water that they had brought with them in leathern bottles. The people knelt in a circle around them, and they baptized three at a time out of the basin that one held, sprinkling each three times with water scooped up in the hand.
That evening Jesus and the disciples entered Gergesa, and went to the house of the ruler of the synagogue. Then came the magistrates of the city urging the ruler to make Jesus depart as soon as possible, and threatening to hold Him responsible for any further injury the city might sustain at His hands. Jesus told the disciples that He had permitted the demons to overturn the vat and to enter into the swine, that the proud pagans might see that He was the Prophet of the Jews whom they so shamefully despised and oppressed. He wished at the same time, as He said, by the loss of the swine, in which so many of them bore a share, to draw the attention of these people to the danger that threatened their souls, and to arouse them from the sleep of sin that they might hearken to His teaching. The beverage He had allowed to be wasted as it was the principal cause of their vices and demoniacal possession.
On the following day a great crowd again gathered around Jesus, for His miracles had become known throughout the whole country, and many Jews who had been converted left Gergesa at once.
The Apostles, who had been healing in the villages nearby, returned in time for Jesus’ discourse, bringing with them those they had cured. There were some women among them carrying baskets of provisions, which they gave to the Apostles. Once when Jesus was closely pressed by the crowd, a woman from Magdala approached Him. She was afflicted with an issue of blood. Though long unable to walk, she had gathered up strength to slip alone through the crowd and to kiss His garment, whereupon she was healed. Jesus went on with His discourse, but after a little while He said: “I have healed someone. Who is it?” At these words, the woman drew near, giving thanks. She had heard of Enue’s cure, and had imitated her example. That evening Jesus, the disciples, and the two Jewish youths lately delivered from demoniacal possession, left Gergesa, journeyed around Magdala, and climbed the mountain north of Hippos. This last named place was not situated on the lake, but on a mountain some distance inland. Jesus and His followers descended on the opposite side and put up at a shepherd’s house.
Here Jesus reminded the disciples that the birthday of Herod would soon be celebrated, and told them that He intended going to Jerusalem. They tried to dissuade Him from doing so, saying that the Pasch was now not far off, and then they should be obliged to go. But Jesus replied in such a way as to give them to understand that He did not intend to show Himself openly at the feast. The two Gergesean disciples again begged to be allowed to accompany Him. Jesus replied that He had another mission in reserve for them, namely, to go around among the ten cities between Cedar and Paneas, and announce to the Jews of those places all that they had seen and heard. He gave them His benediction and made them the same promises as to the other two. If they fulfilled their commission well, the spirit of prophecy should be given to them, they should always know His whereabouts, and should be able to heal the sick in His name. As with the others, so too with them, a certain time had to elapse before these promises would be realized. The two others had first to announce Him in the ten Gergesean villages, and afterward to the heathens of the Decapolis. The youths bade farewell to Jesus, who directed the disciples to go to Bethsaida and, in spite of their entreaties, He Himself remained behind. He retired into a wilderness near the shore to pray. I saw Him walking about among the steep, rocky hills, some of which looked black and like human figures amid the darkness of night.
It was already quite dark when I saw Jesus walking straight over the waves. It was almost opposite Tiberias, a little eastward of the middle of the lake. He appeared as if intending to pass within a little distance of the disciples’ barque. The high wind was contrary, and the disciples weary of rowing. When they saw the figure on the waves, they were affrighted, for they knew not whether it was Jesus or His spirit, and they cried aloud from fear. But Jesus called out: “Fear not! It is I!” Then Peter cried: “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come to Thee upon the waters.” And Jesus said: “Come!”
Peter, in his ardor, leaped on the little ladder and out of the boat. He hurried along for a short distance on the troubled waters toward Jesus, as if on level ground. It seemed to me that he hovered over the surface, for the inequality of the waves appeared to be no obstacle to his progress. But when he began to wonder, and to think more of the sea, its winds and its waves, than of the words of Jesus, he grew frightened and commenced to sink. Crying out, “Lord, save me!” he sank up to the breast and stretched out his hand. Instantly Jesus was at his side. He seized his hand and said: “O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?” Then they entered the barque, and Jesus reproached Peter and the others for their fear. The wind lulled immediately and they steered toward Bethsaida. A ladder was always in readiness to be thrown over the side of the boat for the convenience of those about to enter.