Jesus in Bethania and Jerusalem. Cure of a Man Sick for Thirty-Eight Years
From Bethzur, Jesus proceeded with Lazarus and the disciples to Bethania. They stopped at several places along their route, among them at Emmaus. Jesus taught here and there on the way among the people who were busy tying up the hedges, which were already green.
Martha, Magdalen, and a widow named Salome came to meet them at almost an hour’s distance from Bethania. Salome had long dwelt in Bethania with Martha. Through one of Joseph’s brothers and like Susanna, she was related to the Holy Family. She was later on present at Jesus’ sepulture. They, Martha, Magdalen, and Salome, had been at Lazarus’ inn in the desert, whence they returned at dusk to Bethania.
The four Apostles and several disciples whom Jesus had sent to Thabor arrived also on this evening at Bethania. Great was their grief upon hearing now for the first time the details of John’s death. Then they related what had happened to themselves. They had taught and cured, according to the instructions received from Jesus, and at one place they had been chased with stones, but without being hit by them. The last place they had visited was Saron near Lydda.
When all in Lazarus’ house had retired to rest, Jesus went in the darkness to the Mount of Olives and prayed in a solitary nook. The mount was covered with verdure and groves of noble trees. It was full of retired corners.
Magdalen occupied the little apartments of Mary the Silent’s dwelling. She often sat in a very narrow little room that appeared to be formed in a tower. It was a retired corner intended for penitential exercises. She still wept freely. True, she was no longer actually sick, but from contrition and penance, she had become quite pale and reduced, She looked like one crushed by sorrow.
The last two days were days of fasting. They were followed by a feast of joy, which began at the close of the Sabbath and lasted for three days. The real date had fallen earlier, but for some reason the feast had been postponed. It was a feast of thanksgiving for all graces received from the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage down to their own time. Its celebration was not confined to Jerusalem, but was observed everywhere. Numbers of the chief priests and the greatest enemies of Jesus had left Jerusalem. Since Pilate had absented himself, they had nothing to fear and a less strict guard to keep.
Next morning Jesus went to Jerusalem and accepted hospitality with Johanna Chusa. Neither Martha nor Magdalen was there.
Toward ten o’clock I saw Jesus in the Temple. He occupied the teacher’s chair in the women’s porch, where He was reading and expounding the Law. All were amazed at His wisdom. No one raised the least disturbance or made objections to His teaching. Some of the priests present may not have known Him, and those that did were not against Him. His bitter enemies, the Pharisees and Sadducees, were for the most part absent.
About three o’clock, Jesus went with some of the disciples to the Pool of Bethsaida. He entered from without by a door which was closed and no longer used. This was the corner into which the poorest and most abandoned creatures were pushed; and lying in the farthest part and right next the door was a man paralyzed for thirty-eight years. He had been pressed back by the crowd to the farthest extremity of the place, and now lay in a little chamber destined for men.
When Jesus knocked at the closed door, it opened of itself. Passing along through the sick, He made His way to the hall nearest the pool where invalids of all kinds were sitting and lying, and there He taught. The disciples meanwhile distributed among the poor clothes and bread, covers and kerchiefs given them by the women for that purpose. Such attention and loving services were something quite new to these poor sick who were, for the most part, either abandoned to themselves or left to the care of servants. They were greatly touched. Jesus went about them, pausing in several different places to instruct them, and then asking whether they believed that God was able to help them, whether they wished to be cured, whether they were sorry for their sins, whether they would do penance and be baptized. When He named to some of them their sins, they trembled and cried out: “Master, Thou art a Prophet! Thou art certainly John!” John’s death was not yet generally known, and in many places the report of his being set at liberty was current. Jesus replied in general terms as to who He really was, and cured several of them. He directed the blind to bathe their eyes in water from the pool with which He had previously mixed a little oil. Then He told them to go quietly home, and not say much about their cure until after the Sabbath. The disciples were at the same time curing in the other porches. All the cured were obliged to wash in the pool.
But when, on account of these cures, some excitement was beginning to arise, while now one, now another approached the pool to wash, Jesus went with John to that far-off place near the entrance where lay the poor man who had been sick for thirty-eight long years. He had been a gardener, and had formerly been engaged in the care of hedges and the raising of balsam trees. But now, so long sick and helpless, he was reduced to a state of starvation, and lay like a public beggar glad to eat the scraps left by the other sick. As he had been seen here for so many years, he was known to everyone as the incurable paralytic, Jesus spoke to him, and asked him whether or not he wanted to be cured. But he, not thinking that Jesus would cure him, but that He was asking only in a general way why he was lying there, answered that he had no help, no servant or friend to assist him down into the pool when the waters were moved. While he was creeping down, others got before him and occupied the places around the pool to which the steps led. Jesus spoke for a little while to the man, placed his sins before his eyes, excited his heart to sorrow, and told him that he should no longer live in impurity and no longer blaspheme against the Temple, for it was in punishment of such sins that his sickness had come upon him. Then He consoled him by telling him that God receives all and assists all that turn again to Him with contrition. The poor man, who never before had received a word of consolation, who had been allowed to lie molding and rotting in his misery, who had often bitterly complained that no one offered him any assistance, was now deeply touched at Jesus’ words. At last, Jesus said: “Arise! Take up thy bed, and walk!” But these were only the principal words of all that He said. He commanded him to go down to the pool and wash, and then told one of the disciples, who at that moment approached, to take the man to one of the little dwellings erected for the poor by Jesus’ friends near the Cenacle on Mount Zion. Joseph of Arimathea had his stonecutting shops in them.
He who had been so long paralyzed, and whose face was disfigured by skin disease, gathered together his tattered couch and went off cured to wash in the pool, He was so out of himself with joy and in such a hurry that he almost forgot to take away his bed. The Sabbath had now begun, and Jesus passed out unnoticed with John by the door near the place in which the poor man had lain. The disciple who was to announce the sick man went on ahead, for the latter knew where he was to go. When therefore he issued from the buildings around the Pool of Bethsaida, he was met by some Jews who saw that he had been cured. Thinking that he owed the favor to the waters of the pool, they said to him: “Knoweth thou not that it is the Sabbath day?” He answered: “He that cured me said to me: ‘Arise! Take up thy bed and walk!” They asked him: “Who is he that said to thee: ‘Take up thy bed and walk’?” But the poor man could not say, for he did not know Jesus and had never before seen Him. Jesus had already left the place, and His disciples also.
What the Gospel relates in connection with this miracle, that this man saw Jesus in the Temple and pointed Him out as the One that had cured him; and that Jesus had in consequence a dispute with the Pharisees on the subject of healing on the Sabbath day, took place upon a subsequent feast, but was recorded by John immediately after his account of the cure.¹ I received positive information on this point.
Through those Jews that had reproached the cured man (who had been looked upon by all as incurable) for carrying his bed on the Sabbath day, the report of the miracle was spread in Jerusalem after Jesus had left it. It created great excitement. The other sick who had been cured by Jesus and the disciples at the Pool of Bethsaida attracted little attention, for their cure was attributed to the virtue of the waters. Besides, they did not happen on the Sabbath, and Jesus neither at His entrance nor His departure had been seen by the custodians or superintendents of the pool. With the exception of the sick poor, who lived in the little cells formed in the walls, there were at that time but few persons around the piscina. Those in easy circumstances had already been taken home. In these latter times, in consequence of the movement of the water being rare and mostly at sunrise, only those that had servants could be carried to the pool at the right time; and again, confidence in this manner of curing had greatly decreased. Even the pool itself was neglected, for a part of the wall on one side had gone to ruins. Only people of lively faith frequented it at that time, people such as those that among us go on pilgrimages to holy shrines.
This was the pool in which Nehemias hid the sacred fire. A piece of the wood with which it was covered was afterward thrown aside, and later on was used for a part of Christ’s Cross. The pool had developed its miraculous virtue only after it had been made the depository of the sacred fire. In early times, the pious sick who were endowed with the spirit of prophecy used to see an angel descend and agitate the water. Afterward very few, if any, saw that wondrous sight, and lastly the times had become such that if any did see it, they kept it to themselves. Still at all periods, many beheld the waters agitated and bubbling. This pool, after the coming of the Holy Ghost, became the baptismal place of the Apostles. It was with its agitating angel, a mystery typical of holy baptism at the time of the Paschal lamb which, in turn, was a type of the Last Supper and the Redeemer’s death.
After this miracle, Jesus went with the disciples into a synagogue near the Temple mount, in which Nicodemus and the other friends were celebrating the Sabbath. Jesus did not teach here. He prayed and listened to the reading of the Holy Scriptures appointed for this Sabbath. They consisted of passages relating to the Departure from Egypt, the Journey through the Red Sea, and the Prophetess Deborah.² A canticle celebrating the passage through the Red Sea was sung, and in it were recounted one after another all the benefits that God had showered on the Jews, especially what regarded their worship and Temple. Mention was made of all the priestly vestments and ornaments which God had prescribed on Sinai, also of Solomon and the Queen of Saba. This Sabbath was called Beschallah, and was immediately followed by that feast of three days whose name sounds like Ennorum.³ It was at one and the same time the commencement, the end, and the feast of thanksgiving for all favors and for all other feasts. In the canticle thanks were given for the innumerable favors that God had shown them from the beginning; namely, for their deliverance from Egypt and the Red Sea, for the Law, the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle, for the priestly vestments, and the Temple, and for their wise King Solomon. They demanded also in that canticle another king as wise as he. United with this feast, which had been instituted by a Prophet long before the existence of either Solomon or the Temple, was a joyous festival founded by Solomon on the occasion of the presents made him by the Queen of Saba, who was struck with admiration at his wisdom. With these gifts, he had given recreation to the priests and the people. Its remembrance was perpetuated by the holiday now going on, in which everyone freely diverted himself. Since this feast could be celebrated anywhere, all the Pharisees and officers of the Temple who could in any way escape availed themselves of the opportunity to visit their friends and recruit their strength for the approaching great feasts of Purim and the Pasch.
Abundant alms were distributed on this feast. Loaves of very fine white bread were baked and given to the poor, as a remembrance of the manna in the desert. This festival was like the of the feasts, the feast of the beginning and the end.
After the service in the synagogue, Jesus went with some disciples into the Temple in which were only a few people. The Levites were coming and going, putting things in order, and filling the lamps with oil for next morning. Jesus penetrated into places not open to all, even into the vestibule of the Sanctuary where stood the great teacher’s chair, in order to see and speak to them. This He did upon various deep questions, and they listened for some time. Then came some of the other Levites and reproached Him with His boldness in daring to enter those unusual places and at that unseasonable time. They called Him a contemptible Galilean, etc. Jesus answered them very gravely, spoke of His rights, of the house of His Father, and then withdrew. They derided Him, although He inspired them with secret fear. Jesus stayed that night in the city.
The next morning Jesus and the Apostles cured a great many sick in the side buildings of the Cenacle which, surrounded by a large court, stood upon Mount Sion. Joseph of Arimathea had rented it for his stonecutting business. The holy women of Jerusalem were busied around the sick with all the services that tender charity would inspire. It was on account of these sufferers that Joseph of Arimathea, when recently at Hebron, had invited Jesus to Jerusalem. They were for the most part good, righteous people, acquaintances of the holy women and friends of Jesus. They had been conveyed by night into the court of the Cenacle. Jesus spent the whole morning in performing cures. He taught occasionally, sometimes by this, sometimes by that group. There were lame and blind and paralyzed, others with withered and crippled hands, others with ulcers-men, women, and children. There were also some men wounded by the overthrow of the aqueduct. Some had fractured skulls; others, broken limbs.
They were now busy in the valley of Jerusalem clearing away the rubbish. Some walls falling in had dammed up the water, and laborers were sent into the dyke to dig through the debris. In some places whole trees and large stones were thrown in to stop the course of the waters.
After Jesus had taken a slight repast with the disciples in the Cenacle, at which those that had just been cured were entertained, He and His followers went into the Temple and to the public teacher’s chair, near which were kept the rolls of the Law. Jesus demanded the rolls and proceeded to expound the passages appropriate to the day. They referred to the journey through the Red Sea and to Deborah, and again that Psalm treating of the feast was sung. The title is: All were astonished at Jesus’ doctrine, and no one dared to contradict Him. Some of the Pharisees alone made bold to ask: “Where didst Thou study? Where didst Thou receive the right to teach? How canst Thou take so great a liberty?” Jesus answered them in terms so grave and severe that they had nothing to reply. Then He left the Temple, and went to Bethania with His disciples and friends.
Jesus’ stay in Jerusalem this time was little remarked, since His chief enemies were not there. It was only when from the great teacher’s chair He closed the ceremonies of the Sabbath that they paid much attention to Him and again spoke here and there of the Galilean. All Jerusalem was at the time taken up with talk of the fallen aqueduct, the jealousy existing between Herod and Pilate, and the journey of the latter to Rome; even John’s death was now discussed but little. Unless some particular excitement arose, the people did not talk much of Jesus. It was there as in other great cities. Occasionally indeed somebody would say: “Jesus the Galilean is now in the city” and another would reply: “If He does not come with several thousand men, He will effect nothing.”
While in Bethania, Jesus went to the house of Simon, who no longer appeared in public, for he was sick, his leprosy having begun. A number of red blotches had broken out upon him. Wrapped in a large mantle, he kept himself concealed in a retired apartment. Jesus had an interview with him. Simon looked like one that is anxious not to have his malady noticed, but soon he would be unable to ward off attention. He showed himself as little as possible.
Late that night the disciples returned from Juta, which they had left after the Sabbath. They related to Jesus the circumstances of their bringing away John’s body from Machaerus and its burial near his father. The two soldiers from Machaerus had come with the disciples. Lazarus took charge of them, kept them concealed, and provided for their wants.
When Jesus said to the disciples: “Let us retire to some solitude there to rest and mourn, not over John’s death, but over the deplorable causes that led to it,” I thought, “How will He be able to rest, for the other Apostles and disciples are already gone to Mary in Capharnaum.” Crowds from all quarters, even from Syria and Basan, had flocked thither, and the whole country around Corozain was covered with the tents of those that were awaiting Jesus’ coming.
Jesus Delivers Prisoners In Tirzah
Early next morning, Jesus left Bethania with the six Apostles and about twenty disciples. They shunned all places on the way, and journeyed without stopping eleven hours to the north, until they reached Lebona on the southern slope of Mount Gerizim. St. Joseph before his espousals with Mary had worked here as a carpenter, and he afterward kept up friendly relations with the inhabitants. On a peak of the mountain stood a lonely fortress up to which the road from Lebona led through buildings on one side and old walls on the other. It was on this road that Joseph’s workshop stood, and in it Jesus with all His disciples put up. He was, though coming unexpectedly and at a late hour, received with unusual joy and reverence. It was a Levitical family, and up further on the mountain was the synagogue.
From Lebona Jesus and the disciples journeyed with rapid steps the whole of the following day through Samaria in a northwesterly direction toward the Jordan. They traversed Aser-Machmethat, tarried awhile in the inn at Aser, and then went on to the neighborhood of Tirzah, about one hour from the Jordan and two from Abelmahula. The country around was remarkably fine. Here in Tirzah, as in all other places on the way, the feast that I had seen begun in Jerusalem was right joyously commemorated. Gracefully adorned triumphal arches were erected, and public games celebrated. The actors leaped over garlands for a wager, just as our children do nowadays. Great mounds of grain and orchard fruits were heaped up in the open air for distribution among the poor.
Tirzah was built in two parts, and one quarter of the city extended to within half an hour of the Jordan. The whole region was so studded with gardens and orchards that the traveler could not see the city until just within its reach. It was so broken up by gardens and commons that the quarter furthest from the Jordan looked less like a city than like some groups of houses scattered among gardens and walls. The part nearest the Jordan was the better preserved and the more compact. It was built high above a valley and rested on solid piers. A highway ran under it as under a bridge. This road was charming. From it one could see through the valley with its green trees as through a cool grotto far to the other side where the road emerged into the open air.
Tirzah, situated as it was on a height of moderate elevation, commanded a most beautiful view across the Jordan and into the mountain ranges beyond. To the north could be seen Jetebatha, almost hidden by forests; on the right the view extended into Peraea; and across the smooth surface of the Dead Sea arose Machaerus and the country off to the west. Many a glimpse could be had of the Jordan, and here and there in its windings, its waters glistened like long streaks of light as it flowed along between its verdant banks. Westward from Tirzah lay a high mountain range that separated it from Dothan. Abelmahula lay two hours northwestward, in a deep dale more to the south than was that in which Joseph was sold by his brethren. On every side, Tirzah looked down upon numberless gardens and groves of fruit trees, on terraces and espaliers over which were trained balsam shrubs and paradise apples so much used by the Jews at their Feast of Tabernacles. These trees flourished only in very good and sunny positions. Besides those just mentioned, they cultivated also the sugar cane, long, yellow flax like silk, cotton, and a species of grain in whose thick stalk was stored a marrowy pith. The inhabitants were engaged in horticulture and fruit raising. Many were occupied also in preparing flax, cotton, and the sugar cane for market. The street that ran under the city was the grand military and commercial route to Tarichaea and Tiberias. In many places it took the form of a tunnel between hills, as it did here in Tirzah which, as I have said, rested on piers above the road.
In the center of the city, that is, in the center of its ancient surroundings, in a large, deserted-looking space, there stood on a gentle eminence a spacious edifice with massive walls, several courtyards, and round buildings like towers in whose interior were found other courts. It was the old, ruined castle of the Kings of Israel. A part had fallen to decay, but another had been fitted up as a hospital and prison. Some portions were overgrown ruins, on which were laid out gardens of all kinds. On the square before the house was a fountain whose water, by means of a wheel turned by an ass, was raised in leathern bags and poured into a great basin, from which it flowed on all sides through channels into tanks, thus supplying the city in every direction. Every quarter had its reservoir.
At this fountain five disciples from the opposite side of the Jordan joined Jesus and His followers. They were the two youths delivered from slight demoniacal possession, the two men out of whom Jesus had driven the devils into the swine, and a fifth. They had been, in accordance with Jesus’ commands, proclaiming their own deliverance and the miracle of the swine in the little cities of the country of the Gerasens and in the Decapolis. They had healed in those places and had announced the approach of the Kingdom of God. They embraced the disciples and washed one another’s feet at the fountain. Jesus had come straight from a house outside the city where, with the other disciples, He had passed the night. These five brought Him news that all His disciples whom He had sent into Upper Galilee had returned to Capharnaum, and that an immense multitude of people were encamped in the district around, awaiting His coming.
Jesus now went with the disciples into the castle, sought out the superintendent of the hospital, and requested to be introduced to their quarters. The superintendent complied with His request, and Jesus went through halls and courts until He arrived at the cells and retired corners where lay the sick suffering from diseases of all kinds. He went around among them instructing, healing, and consoling. Some of the disciples were with Him, helping to raise, carry, and lead the sick; others were scattered in the different corridors, performing cures and preparing the way for Jesus. In one of the courts there were several possessed in chains, who yelled and raged when Jesus entered the house. He commanded them to be silent, cured them, and drove the devils out of them. In the most distant part of the hospital were some lepers, and these too He healed. He went alone to them. The cured belonging to Tirzah itself were at once taken away by their friends, not, however, before Jesus had ordered them food and drink. To the poor among them were distributed, besides, the clothing and coverlets that the disciples had brought with them to Tirzah from the inn of Bezech.
Jesus visited also the abode of the sick women. It was a high, round tower with an inner court. In this court, as well as on the outside of the tower, a projecting flight of steps led from one story to another, for in the interior there was no little staircase such as we have. In the exterior apartments were women sick of all kinds of maladies. Jesus cured many. In the apartments nearest the court, from which they were separated by locked doors, women were imprisoned, some for their excesses, some on account of their bold speech, while many others of their number were innocent. In the same building many poor men underwent the rigors of grievous imprisonment, some for debt, others for having joined in a revolt, many also the victims of revenge and enmity, while others were confined merely to get them out of the way. Many of these poor creatures were quite abandoned, left to starve in their prison cells. Jesus heard bitter complaints on this subject from the sick whom He cured and from others. He indeed knew all about it, and it was principally on account of that general misery He had come.
Tirzah counted numerous Pharisees and Sadducees, and among the latter were many Herodians. The prison was guarded by Roman soldiers and had a Roman superintendent. The lodgings of the guards and overseers were outside the building. Jesus, having applied to the latter for permission, was allowed to visit the part open to strangers. He listened to the prisoners’ story of misery and sufferings, directed refreshments to be distributed to them, instructed and consoled them, and forgave the sins of many that confessed to Him. To several of those confined for debt, as well as to many others, He promised release. To others He held out hopes of relief.
From the prison Jesus went to the Roman Commander, who was not a wicked man, and spoke to him gravely and touchingly about the prisoners. He offered to discharge their debts Himself, and to go part security for their innocence and good behavior. He expressed His desire also to converse with those that had for so long a time endured a more rigorous imprisonment. The Commander listened very respectfully to Jesus, but explained to Him that as all those prisoners were Jews who had been put into prison under very particular circumstances, he would have to speak to the Pharisees and to the Jewish authorities of the place before he could grant His request to he allowed access to them. Jesus replied that after He had taught in the synagogue, He would call on him again with the Jewish authorities. Then He returned to the female prisoners, whom He consoled and advised. He received from several the avowal of their misdemeanors and promises of amendment, forgave them their sins, caused alms to be distributed among them, and promised to reconcile them with their friends.
Thus did Jesus from nine o’clock in the morning until nearly four in the afternoon labor in this abode of misery and woe, filling it with joy and consolation on a day upon which in it alone was sorrow to be found, for in the city all was jubilation. It was the first of those holidays that had been added by Solomon to the Feast of Ennorum, on account of the gifts presented by the Queen of Saba. Jesus had beheld the Sabbath of this first day celebrated the evening before at Bezech. Today the whole city, especially the most populous quarters, was alive with joy. There were triumphal arches, leaping, racing, and heaps of grain for distribution among the poor. But around that old castle, at once prison and hospital, all was still. Jesus alone had thought of its poor inmates, and He alone had brought them real joy. In the house outside the city, He took with the disciples a little repast, which consisted of bread, fruit, and honey. Then He sent some of His followers to the prison with all kinds of provisions and refreshments, while He with the rest repaired to the synagogue.
The report of what Jesus had done in the hospital was already spread throughout the whole city. Many of those that He had there cured were returned to the city and now went to the synagogue; others were assembled outside the sacred edifice, where Jesus and the Apostles cured many more. In the synagogue were gathered the Pharisees and Sadducees, and many secret Herodians. Among the first named were many of the same sect from Jerusalem who had come thither for recreation. They were full of spite and envy at Jesus’ doings, which threw disgrace upon their own. In the school were present also a great many people from Bezech who had followed Jesus thither. In His instruction Jesus spoke of the feast and its signification, which was to afford an opportunity for recreation, for infusing joy into the hearts of others, and for doing good. He referred again to one of the Eight Beatitudes, “Blessed are the merciful.” He explained the parable of the Prodigal Son, which He had already related to the prisoners. Then He spoke of these, as well as of the sick and their miseries, how forgotten and abandoned they were while others enriched themselves by seizing upon the funds destined for their support. He inveighed vigorously against the trustees of this establishment, some of whom were among the Pharisees present. They listened in silent rage. In recounting the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus made allusion to those that had been imprisoned on account of their misdemeanors, but who were now repentant. This He did in order to reconcile the relatives here present to some of the prisoners. All were very much touched.
Here, too, Jesus related the parable of the compassionate king and the unmerciful servant. He applied it to those that allow the poor prisoner to languish on account of an insignificant debt, while God suffers their own great indebtedness to run on.
The secret Herodians had by their trickery been the cause of the imprisonment of many poor people of this place. To this fact Jesus once vaguely alluded when, in His severe denunciation of the Pharisees, He said: “There are many indeed among you who very likely know how things fell out with John.” The Pharisees railed at Jesus. They made use of expressions among themselves, such as these: “He wages war with the help of women, and goes about with them. He will get possession of no great kingdom with such warriors.”
Jesus then pressed the head men among the magistrates and Pharisees to go with Him to the Roman superintendent of the prison, and offer to ransom the most miserable and neglected of the inmates. This proposal was made in the hearing of many, consequently the Pharisees could not refuse. When Jesus and His disciples turned off toward the residence of the superintendent, a crowd followed, sounding Jesus’ praises. The superintendent was a much better man than the Pharisees, who maliciously ran up the prisoners’ debts so high that, for the release of some of them, Jesus had to pay fourfold. But because He had not the money around Him, He gave as a pledge a triangular coin to which hung a parchment ticket upon which He had written some words authorizing the sum to be discharged from Magdalen’s property which Lazarus was about to sell. The entire proceeds were destined by Magdalen and Lazarus for the benefit of the poor, for debtors, and the relief of sinners. Magdalum was a more valuable estate than that of Bethania. Each side of the triangular coin was about three inches long, and in the center was an inscription indicating its value. To one end hung a jointed strip of metal, like two or three links of a chain, and to this the writing was fastened.
After the transaction recorded above, the superintendent ordered the poor prisoners to be brought forth. Jesus and the disciples lent their assistance in the execution of his order. Many poor creatures in tatters, half-naked and covered with hair, were dragged forth from dark holes. The Pharisees angrily withdrew. Many of the released were quite weak and sick. They lay weeping at Jesus’ feet, while He consoled and exhorted them. He procured for them clothing, baths, food, lodgings, and saw to the formalities necessary to be observed in restoring them to liberty, for they had to remain under the jurisdiction of the prison and hospital a few days until their ransom was paid. A similar occurrence took place among the female prisoners. All were fed, Jesus and the disciples waiting on them, and the parable of the Prodigal Son was afterward related to them.
Thus was this house for once filled with joy. In it appeared to be prefigured the deliverance from Limbo of the Patriarchs to whom John, after his death, had announced the near coming of the Redeemer. Jesus and the disciples spent the night once more in the house outside of Tirzah.
It was this affair here in Tirzah which, when reported to Herod, drew his attention more particularly upon Jesus, and called forth the remark: “Is John risen from the grave?” From this time Herod was desirous of seeing Jesus. He had indeed previously heard of Him from general report and through John, but he had not thought much on the subject. Now, however, his uneasy conscience made him notice what before had passed unremarked. He was at this time living in Hesebon, where he had gathered all his soldiers around him, among them some mercenary Roman troops.
From Tirzah to Capharnaum, whither Jesus now proceeded with His disciples, was a journey of eighteen hours. They did not go up through the valley of the Jordan, but along the base of Mount Gelboa and across the vale of Abez, leaving Thabor on the left. They lodged at the inn on the borders of the lake near Bethulia and journeyed next day to Damna, where Jesus found Mary and several of the holy women who had arrived there before Him. The other six Apostles and some of the disciples had also come to Damna. The two soldiers from Machaerus, whom Lazarus had sent through Samaria, joined Jesus’ followers near Azanoth.
Jesus in Capharnaum and Its Environs
There were at this time in Capharnaum no fewer than sixty-four Pharisees assembled from the neighboring districts. On their way thither, they had made inquiries upon the most remarkable of Jesus’ cures, and had ordered the widow of Naim with her son and witnesses from that place to be summoned to Capharnaum, as well as the son of Achias, the Centurion of Giskala. They had also closely interrogated Zorobabel and his son, the Centurion Cornelius and his servant, Jairus and his daughters, several blind and lame that had been cured—in a word, all that had in that part of the country profited by Jesus’ healing power. In every case they summoned witnesses, whom they questioned and whose answers they compared.
When, notwithstanding their malice, they were unable to construe what they heard into proofs against the truth of Jesus’ miracles, they became still more enraged, and again had recourse to their old story, that He had dealings with the devil. They declared that He went about with women of bad repute, excited the people to sedition, deprived the synagogues of the alms that should flow to them, and profaned the Sabbath, and they boasted that they would now put a stop to His proceedings.
Intimidated by these threats, by the ever-increasing concourse of people, and especially by the beheading of John, the relatives of Jesus were in great trouble. They entreated Him not to go to Capharnaum, but to take up His residence elsewhere, and for this they named many places, such as Naim or Hebron or the cities on the other side of the Jordan. But Jesus silenced them by declaring that He would go to Capharnaum, where He would both teach and cure, for as soon as He stood face to face with the Pharisees, they would cease their boasting.
When the disciples asked Him what they were now to do, Jesus answered that He would tell them, and that He would give to The Twelve to hold the same position to them as He Himself held to the Apostles. When evening came they separated. Jesus went with Mary, the women, and His relatives eastward through Zorobabel’s hamlet to Mary’s house in the valley of Capharnaum, and the Apostles and disciples departed by other routes. That night Jairus sought Jesus to relate to Him the persecutions he had had to endure. Jesus calmed him. He had been discharged from his office, and now belonged entirely to Jesus.
Capharnaum was full of visitors, sick and well, Jews and Gentiles. The surrounding plains and heights were covered with encampments. In the fields and mountain nooks, camels and asses were grazing; even the valleys and hills on the opposite side of the lake were alive with people waiting for Jesus. There were strangers here from all sides, from Syria, Arabia, Phoenicia, and even from Cyprus.
Jesus visited Zorobabel, Cornelius, and Jairus. The family of the last-named was entirely converted, the daughter much better than formerly, and very modest and pious. Jesus went afterward to Peter’s house outside the city, and found it crowded with sick. Heathens, who had never been here before, now presented themselves. The crowd of sick was so great that the disciples had to put up a species of scaffolding in order to afford more room for them. Not only Jesus was everywhere sought for by the sick, but the Apostles and disciples also were called by them. “Art thou one of the Prophet’s disciples?” they cried. “Have pity on me! Help me! Take me to Him!” Jesus, the Apostles, and about twenty-four disciples taught and cured the whole morning. There were some possessed present, who cried after Jesus and from whom He drove the demons. No Pharisees were present, but there were among the crowd some spies and some half-disaffected.
After Jesus had performed many cures, He withdrew into a hall to preach, whither He was followed by the cured and others. Some of the Apostles went on healing while the others gathered around Jesus, who again taught on the Beatitudes and related several parables. Among other points, He touched upon prayer which, He said, they should never omit. He related and developed the similitude of the unjust judge who, in order to get rid of the widow ever returning to knock at his door, at last rendered her justice. 18:1-5). If the unjust judge was thus forced to comply, will not the Father in Heaven be still more merciful?
Then Jesus taught the multitude how to pray, recited the seven petitions of the and explained the first, “Our Father, who art in Heaven.” Already on His journeys, He had explained several of the petitions to the disciples; now, however, He took them up as He had done the Beatitudes, and made them the subject of His public instructions. Thus the prayer was all explained by degrees, repeated everywhere, and published on all sides by the disciples. Jesus continued the Eight Beatitudes at the same time. In speaking of prayer, He made use of this similitude: If a child begs his father for bread, will he give him a stone? Or if asked for a fish, will he give a serpent or scorpion?
It was now toward three o’clock. Mary, aided by her sister and other women, also by the sons of Joseph’s brethren from Dabereth, Nazareth, and the valley of Zabulon, had prepared in the front part of the house a meal for Jesus and the disciples. During several days they had had, on account of their great labors, no regular hours for meals. The dining room was separated from the hall in which Jesus was teaching near a court crowded with people, who could hear all that was said through the open porticos of the hall. Now when Jesus went on instructing, Mary, taking with her some relatives in order not to go through the crowd alone, approached with the intention of speaking to Him and begging Him to come and partake of some food. But it was impossible for her to make her way through the crowd, and so her request was passed from one to another, until it reached a man standing near Jesus. He was one of the spies of the Pharisees. As Jesus had several times made mention of His Heavenly Father, the spy, not without a secret sneer, said to Him: “Behold Thy Mother and Thy brethren stand without, seeking Thee.” But Jesus, looking at him, said: “Who is My Mother, and who are My brethren?” Then grouping The Twelve and placing the disciples near them, He extended His hand over the former with the words: “Behold My Mother!” and then over the latter, saying: “and these are My brethren, who hear the word of God and do it. For whosoever shall do the will of My Father who is in Heaven, he is My brother, My sister, and My Mother.”³ Then He went on with His discourse, but sent His disciples in turn to take what food they needed.
After this, as He was going with the disciples to the synagogue, the sick who could still walk followed Him, imploring His help. He cured them. In the outer porch of the synagogue, although the Sabbath had already begun, a man stepped up to Him, showed Him his hand, crippled and withered, and begged to be helped. Jesus told him to wait awhile. At the same time, He was called by some people who were leading a deaf and dumb possessed who was raging frightfully. Jesus commanded him to lie down quietly at the entrance of the synagogue and there wait. The possessed instantly sat down cross-legged, and bowed his head on his knees, keeping a side-glance fixed on Jesus. With the exception of an occasional slight convulsive shuddering, he remained quiet during the whole instruction.
The Sabbath lesson was about Jethro giving counsel to Moses when the Israelites were encamped around Sinai, of Moses ascending the mount and receiving the Ten Commandments, and from the Prophet Isaias, the passages that record his vision of the throne of God and the seraph’s purifying his lips with a burning coal. The synagogue was overflowing with people, and a great crowd was standing outside. The doors and windows were all thrown open, and many people were looking in from the adjacent buildings. Numbers of Pharisees and Herodians were present, all filled with rage and bitterness. The recently cured were in the synagogue, as well as all the disciples and relatives of Jesus. The citizens of Capharnaum and the crowds of strangers were full of reverence and admiration for Jesus, and so the Pharisees did not dare to attack Him without apparent reason. They had besides come to the synagogue more out of a desire to support one another in their vain boasting than to make any serious opposition to Him, though this latter they were not able to do. They no longer cared to contradict Him in public, as on such occasions His replies generally put them to shame before the people. But when Jesus withdrew, they sought by every possible means to turn the people away from Him, and they set lies afloat against Him.
They knew now that the man with the withered hand was there, and they wanted to see whether Jesus would heal him on the Sabbath, that they might accuse Him. This was especially the desire of those that had just come from Jerusalem. They were anxious for something to take home with them and lay before the Sanhedrin. As they could allege nothing of importance against Him, and although they well knew His sentiments on the point, they always returned as if in ignorance to the same question, and to it Jesus with unwearied patience generally gave the same answer. Several of them now put the query: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Jesus, knowing their thoughts, called the man with the withered hand, placed him in the midst of them, and said: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath day, or to do evil? To save life, or to destroy it?” No one answered. Then Jesus repeated the similitude of which He generally made use on such occasions: “What man shall there be among you that hath one sheep: and if the same fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not take hold on it and lift it up! How much better is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do a good deed on the Sabbath day.” He was very much troubled at the obduracy of these men, and His angry glance penetrated to the bottom of their soul. Taking the arm of the poor man in His left hand, He stroked it down with the right, straightened out and separated the crooked fingers, and said: “Stretch out thy hand!” The man stretched out his hand and moved it. It had become as long as the other and was perfectly cured. The whole scene was the work of an instant. The man cast himself with thanks at Jesus’ feet and the people broke forth into shouts of jubilation, while the enraged Pharisees withdrew to the entrance of the synagogue to discuss what they had witnessed. Jesus next drove the devil from the possessed whom He had left waiting at the door, and instantly speech and hearing were given him. The people again shouted for joy, and the Pharisees again gave utterance to their slanderous expression: “He has a devil! He drives out one devil by the help of another!” Jesus turned toward them and said: “Who among you can convict Me of sin? If the tree is good, so too is the fruit good; if the tree is evil, so also is the fruit evil, for by the fruit the tree is known. O generation of vipers, how can you speak good things, whereas you are evil! Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
At these words, the Pharisees set up a great cry: “He shall make an end of all this! We have had enough of this!” and one of them carried his insolence so far as to call out: “Dost Thou not know that we can put Thee out?” Jesus and the disciples now left the synagogue, and hurried by different routes, some to Mary’s house, some to Peter’s near the lake. Jesus took a repast at His Mother’s, and then passed the night with The Twelve in Peter’s house. The latter, being the more distant of the two, afforded a safer retreat.
The whole of the following day Jesus, the Twelve Apostles, and the disciples spent at Peter’s healing the sick. The multitude was waiting for Him and seeking Him in many places, but He remained shut up in the house.
During the day Jesus called before Him the Apostles and disciples, two and two, as He had sent them, and received from them an account of all that had happened to them during their mission. He solved the doubts and difficulties that had arisen in certain circumstances, and instructed them how they should act in the future. He told them again that He would soon give them a new mission. The six Apostles who had been laboring in Upper Galilee had been well received. They had found the people well disposed and had in consequence baptized many. The others, who had gone to Judea, had not baptized any, and here and there had experienced contradiction.
The crowd around the house becoming greater and greater, Jesus and His followers slipped away secretly. The stars shed their light down upon the little party as they hurried along the bypaths to Peter’s barque. They ferried across the lake and landed between Matthew’s custom house and Little Corozain. From there they climbed the mountain at whose foot stood the custom house, for Jesus wanted to instruct the disciples in solitude. But the multitude had caught a glimpse of their departure, and the news soon spread through the tents of the encampment. The crowd near Bethsaida soon crossed, some over the lake, others further up over the Jordan bridge, and so Jesus and His party here on the mountain were again surrounded by the immense multitude. The disciples ranged the people in order, and Jesus began again His instructions on the Beatitudes and prayer. He again explained the first petition of the As the hours flew by, the crowds increased. People came from all the cities around, from Julias, Corozain, and Gergesa, bringing with them the sick and possessed. Numbers were healed by Jesus and the disciples.
The instructions over, the multitude dispersed the next day at the place on which this sermon on the mount had been delivered. Jesus with the Apostles and disciples then retired higher up the mountain to a shady, solitary spot. Besides The Twelve, there were with Jesus seventy-two disciples. Among them were the two soldiers from Machaerus and some that had not yet been formally received as disciples and had never been on a mission. The sons of Joseph’s brother were there.
Jesus then instructed the disciples upon the work in store for them. He told them that they should take with them neither purse nor money nor bread, but only a staff and a pair of sandals; that wherever they were ungraciously received, they should shake the dust from their shoes. He gave them some general directions for their coming duties as Apostles and disciples, called them the salt of the earth, and spoke of the light that must not be placed under a bushel, and of the city seated upon a mountain. Still He did not inform them of the full measure of persecution awaiting them.
The main point, however, of this instruction was that by which Jesus drew a definitive line between the Apostles and the disciples, the former of whom were set over the latter. To them He said that they should send and call the disciples as He Himself sent and called namely, the Apostles. This they were empowered to do by virtue of their own mission. Among the disciples Jesus likewise formed several classes, setting the eldest and best instructed over the younger and more recently received. He arranged them in the following manner, the Apostles, two by two, headed by Peter and John. The elder disciples formed a circle around them, and back of these the younger, according to the rank He had assigned them. Then He addressed to them words of earnest and touching instruction, and imposed hands upon the Apostles as a ratification of the dignity to which He had raised them; the disciples, He merely blessed. All this was done with the greatest tranquility. The whole scene was deeply impressive. No one offered the least resistance or showed the least sign of discontent. By this time it was evening, and Jesus with Andrew, John, Philip, and James the Less, plunged deeper into the mountains, and there spent the night in prayer.