Jesus in Gessur and Nobe. Celebration of the Feast of Purim
Jesus journeyed seven hours northeastward from Rechob to Gessur, where He stopped with the publicans, many of whom dwelt on the highroad leading to Damascus. Gessur was a beautiful, large city garrisoned by Roman soldiers. Jews and pagans occupied separate quarters, notwithstanding which the communications between them were very intimate. The Jews of Gessur were, on this account, held in low esteem by those of other places.
Many of the Jews and pagans of Gessur had been present at the sermon on the Mount of Beatitudes, and some of their sick were cured by the Apostles who had recently visited the place. There was also a blind man who had been restored to sight at the instruction before the multiplication of the bread. The husband of Mary Suphan was from Gessur, but he was now residing with her at Ainon.
When Absalom was fleeing from David, he took up his abode in Gessur for a time, as his mother Maacha was the daughter of the king of the place, who was named Tholmai
The Apostle Bartholomew, who had accompanied Jesus hither, was a descendant of that same royal house. His father had for a long time made use of the baths of Bethulia, on which account he had removed to Cana and settled in the valley of Zabulon. It was owing to this that Bartholomew had become an inhabitant of that part of the country. He still had in Gessur a very aged grand-uncle on his mother’s side, a pagan and possessed of great property and riches. This old man resided in a large house in the heart of the city. He had himself conducted to the publican quarter in order to see Jesus, who was teaching on a terrace upon which the merchandise passing this way was examined, taxed, and repacked. The old uncle conversed with the Apostles, especially with his nephew Bartholomew, and invited Jesus to his house to dine. All the inhabitants, men and women, Jews and pagans, attended Jesus’ instructions. It was a promiscuous audience. Jesus also took a meal with the publicans and many others. There was considerable bustle attending it, for the publicans were putting all their goods in order to make a distribution to the poor.
When Jesus entered the pagan quarter of the city, to visit Bartholomew’s uncle, He was received with magnificence according to pagan style. Carpets were spread before Him, and sumptuous refreshments set forth, all in accordance with pagan manners.
The pagans of Gessur adored a many-armed idol, which supported on its head a bushel measure filled with ears of wheat. Many of them inclined to Judaism, and many others to the doctrines of Jesus. Numbers of them had already been baptized either by John, or by the Apostles at Capharnaum.
The publicans distributed the greater part of their wealth. On the place upon which Jesus had taught, they heaped up great quantities of corn which they afterward measured out to the poor. They likewise bestowed fields and gardens upon poor day laborers and slaves, and repaired all the wrong they had done.
When Jesus was again teaching at the custom house before the pagans and Jews, some strangers arrived, Pharisees, to celebrate here the Sabbath. They reproached Jesus for lodging among the publicans and for having familiar communications with them and the pagans.
Bartholomew’s uncle, along with sixteen other aged men, was baptized in a bathing garden, the water from a well of the city being conducted into the garden by a very elevated canal. Joses Barsabas administered the Baptism. The garden had been adorned in festive style, the ceremony was most solemn, and the poor were abundantly supplied with alms, to which the old uncle largely contributed.
Jesus closed the Sabbath by an instruction in the synagogue, took leave of all the people at the custom house, distributed alms to the poor, and went accompanied by a numerous retinue a distance of five hours to the fisher village on the borders of the lake of Phiala. This lake was on a plateau about three hours east of Paneas. He arrived late and lodged with the teacher in a house next the school. The people of the place were for the most part Jews.
Lake Phiala was scarcely one hour long. Its shores were sloping, its waters clear, and its outlet flowed toward a mountain where it disappeared. There were some boats on its surface. The region was covered with fields of grain and beautiful meadows, in the latter of which numbers of asses, camels, and other cattle were grazing; there were also groves of chestnuts. On both sides of the lake lay Jewish fisher villages, each of which had its own school.
Jesus taught in the schools, and went with some of the inhabitants and the Apostles into the homes of the shepherds around the lake. John the Baptist had once sojourned in this region.
From this place, Jesus with John, Bartholomew, and a disciple went three hours southward to Nobe, a city of Decapolis. The inhabitants were pagans and Jews. They dwelt apart, the city being divided into two quarters, each of which had a somewhat different name. All the cities of this part of the country were built of black, glimmering stone. Jesus taught in Nobe and in some of the little places around. John and Bartholomew were with Him, the other Apostles and disciples being scattered throughout the neighboring country.
Jesus prepared the people for Baptism, which was administered by Bartholomew. The water in these places was black and muddy, but it was purified in great, round, stone reservoirs, whence it was allowed to flow into others that were kept covered. The Apostles poured into it some of the water from their drinking vessels, and Jesus blessed the whole. The people, with inclined heads, knelt for Baptism around the stone basin.
The pagans of Nobe received Jesus very solemnly. They went to meet Him carrying green, blooming branches, stretched cordons on either side to keep back the crowd, and spread carpets for Him to walk on. These latter were laid across the streets, and, when Jesus had passed over them, they were raised quickly, carried some distance ahead, and held again in readiness for His approach. This was repeated many times, and as often did Jesus walk over them. The rabbis, who were Pharisees, received Him in the Jewish quarter, where He taught in the synagogue, for it was the Sabbath of the Purim festival. When all was over, there was a banquet given in the public hall. During the entertainment, the Pharisees again disputed on certain points, and twitted Jesus upon His disciples’ eating fruit by the wayside and stripping the ears of wheat.
Jesus related the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, also that of the rich glutton and poor Lazarus. He reproached the Pharisees for not having, according to custom, invited the poor to the feast; whereupon they replied that their revenues were too small to allow it. Then Jesus asked whether the present entertainment had been prepared for Him, and when they answered, yes, He laid on the table five large, yellow, three-cornered pieces of money attached to a little chain, saying that they might let the poor have them. Then He directed the disciples to call in many of the poor, who sat down at the table and partook of the viands. Jesus Himself served them, instructing them meantime and distributing to them quantities of food. The money presented by Jesus was perhaps the customary Temple tax usually paid on that day, or merely a gift usual at the time, for the people on this feast interchanged presents of fruits, bread, grain, and garments.
On this feast they read in the synagogue the whole of the history of Esther. They did the same to the sick and aged in their own homes. Jesus also went around reading to the old people the roll of Esther, and healing some of the sick. I saw too festive games and processions of the young maidens and women, who had great privileges on this day. Once they entered the synagogue as if on an embassy, and penetrated even into the upper part. They had chosen one of their number as queen, whom they now escorted in regal robes, and presented to the priests beautiful priestly vestments. They had some games among themselves in a garden. They chose sometimes this one, again that one for queen, and in turn dethroned them. They had also a puppet which they ill-treated and then hanged, while little lads struck with hammers on boards and uttered imprecations. This was meant for a representation of the punishment merited by the wicked Aman.
Jesus in Regaba and Caesarea-Philippi
From Nobe, Jesus went to Gaulon. The road wound westwardly round a high mountain chain for a distance of four hours. Gaulon was inhabited by both Jews and pagans and was distant from the Jordan a couple of hours. Jesus tarried here only a few hours teaching and healing. Continuing His journey, He passed the city of Argos, built at a high elevation on a mountain ridge, and arrived late that night at the stronghold Regaba. He rested with His companions on the grass of a solitary place outside the city, and awaited the other Apostles and disciples, fifteen in number. When these arrived, they all went with their Master to the inn established here for their accommodation. Regaba belonged to the Gergesean district. It was the most northerly of their towns, and one of the best disposed. Gaulon was a frontier town of the tetrarch Philip.
Most of the inhabitants, both Jews and pagans, were already baptized, and their sick had been healed on the Mount of Beatitudes. Jesus spent the whole day in teaching, consoling, and strengthening souls in faith. An immense crowd from the whole country around was here assembled for the Sabbath, and to it was added a caravan from Arabia. This crowd of people brought with them their lame, their blind, their dumb, and other sick. They pressed with such violence that Jesus left the synagogue with the disciples and retired to a mountain. Some of the disciples remained behind and endeavored, as well as they could, to bring the crowd to order. The people followed Jesus to the mountain, where He taught of the of prayer that should not be made with ostentation and in public places to be seen, and of the granting of prayer. He also healed many of the sick, and then returned to the synagogue in Regaba. During these last days, Jesus had spoken much upon prayer both on His journeys and in the schools. There were some disciples with Him who had not been present at all the explanations of the They said to Him: “Teach us, also, to pray as Thou hast taught the others!” and He again explained the and warned them against sanctimonious prayers.
Regaba was situated very high and had a magnificent view over the lake, across Genesareth, and off to Thabor. Still higher than the city, which was not very large, stood upon a rock a square building with great, steep walls, as if hewn from the rocks. It was provided with vaults and chambers, and was a home for soldiers. It was roofed by a platform upon which trees were growing. It was a citadel. From Regaba to the lake the distance was about five hours toward the southwest; to the Mount of Beatitudes, from three to four hours westward; about five hours to Bethsaida-Julias; and from seven to eight hours from the place in which Jesus drove the devil into the swine. To Caesarea-Philippi, it may have been five hours. A road for caravans ran over the high mountain between Regaba and Caesarea.
During these days, Jesus spoke much of the dark future before Him. Men would, He said, persecute Him everywhere and even attempt His life, and once He said that His arrest was near. Since the last excitement at Capharnaum, He had not spoken in public of the Bread of Life, nor of eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood. He had taught of this mystery chiefly in order to try His disciples and to get rid of the bad, whom He wished no longer to retain as His followers.
The elevated surroundings of Regaba were very lovely, though somewhat wild. Off toward the northeast, however, the country was barren and rocky. Excellent fruit, such as they had in Genesareth, did not grow here, but there were quantities of grain, and on the mountains fine pasturelands. Grazing around were great herds of asses and cows. Some of the latter had very broad horns and black snouts which they carried high in the air; others bore their heads lower and their horns forward, while the horns of many others were broken off short. There were also large herds of camels, which at a distance looked quite small. They often slept standing, supported against the trees and rocks. In one quarter, in which trees like beeches were growing, I saw droves of swine. I have never seen either the Jews or the pagans prepare smoked meat, though they dried fish in the sun and salted it. Up here on the mountains there was great scarcity of water, consequently there were cisterns lower down in which the rain was caught, and the water then carried up in leathern bottles.
From Regaba Jesus went with His followers to Caesarea-Philippi, where He arrived about midday. The road thither ran over mountains, and in many places it was very wild. The situation of Caesarea was extraordinarily beautiful. It lay between five hills on one side and a mountain chain on the other. It was surrounded by groves and gardens, and was built in the pagan style of columns and arches. There were perhaps as many as seven palaces, and numbers of pagan temples. Still, the pagans dwelt apart from the Jews. In a little vale outside the city there was a very large pond, in the center of which was a little revolving building. The water welled from it into the pond and thence flowed down to the Jordan. In the pagan quarter of the city, there was a very deep well over which was built a beautiful edifice. It was very deep to look down into, I think it communicated through the mountain with the source that flowed from Lake Phiala. I saw outside the city arches and vaults also through which the water flowed, as if through caves and over bridges.
Jesus was well received. They were on the watch for Him, the caravan having announced His coming. Some of the relatives of the woman whom Jesus had cured of a flow of blood came out as far as the pond to meet Him. He put up near the synagogue at an inn belonging to the Pharisees, and soon was surrounded by a crowd of sick and others. The Apostles healed here and there. Some of the Pharisees of this place were badly disposed toward Jesus. They had formed part of the Commission of Capharnaum.
Jesus cured and taught on a hill outside the city. Strangers from all quarters had brought thither their sick, and these latter were continually crying out: “Lord, command one of Thy disciples to help us!” The Pharisees taunted Jesus, asking Him why He went around with people so mean, why He did not associate with the learned.
Alms consisting of food and clothing were distributed by the disciples. They had been supplied by Enue (she who had been cured of the issue of blood) and her uncle, still a pagan, who dwelt in Caesarea.
The three Apostles and all the disciples who from Ornithopolis had been sent by Jesus to Tyre, Cabul, and the tribe of Aser, met Jesus here at Caesarea as He had appointed. The meeting on such occasions is always very touching. They clasp hands and embrace. The people washed the feet of the newcomers, who immediately took part in the distribution of food and other alms, and the healing of the sick.
Jesus went afterward with all the Apostles and disciples, about sixty in number, to the house of Enue’s uncle, where He was received most solemnly according to pagan customs, carpets being spread for Him to walk upon, and green branches and wreaths being carried. The uncle, led by Enue and her daughter, came to meet Jesus, and the women cast themselves down before Him.
It was partly in answer to the prayer of this old man that Jesus had come to Caesarea. He and several other pagans wanted to be baptized, but they had scruples on the subject of circumcision. Jesus never touched upon this point in His public discourse, but He had a private interview with the uncle. In such cases, He never commanded circumcision; though, at the same time, He did not advocate its discontinuance. When pious old pagans, upon receiving Baptism, told Him in confidence of their trouble on this head, Jesus used to console them by telling them that if they did not wish to become Jews, they should remain as they were, but believe and practice what they heard from Him. Such people then lived apart from both Judaism and paganism. They prayed, they gave alms, and became Christians without passing through Judaism. Even to the Apostles, Jesus refrained from expressing Himself on this point, in order not to scandalize them, so that I never remember having heard the Pharisees, who listened so closely to catch Him in His words, ever accuse Him on that head, no, not even at the time of His Passion.
Over the beautifully paved inner court of the old man’s house an awning of white stuff was stretched, and through an opening in the center hung a wreath. Besides the trees, the whole court was adorned with garlands of flowers. Baptism was administered under the awning. Before the ceremony, Jesus gave an instruction and spoke in private with the neophytes, who opened their hearts to Him. They exposed to Him their whole life and made their profession of faith in Him. Jesus then absolved them from their sins, and they were baptized by Saturnin in a basin of water which Jesus had previously blessed. The ceremony was followed by a grand entertainment in which all the disciples and the friends of the family took part. The meal was conducted according to pagan customs. The table was higher than those in use among the Jews, and the guests reclined upon long, raised divans, the feet turned out, and one arm resting on a cushion. The edge of the table was indented, and before each of the guests were some small dishes, though the principal viands were on large ones in the center of the table.
Enue, since her cure, was scarcely recognizable, so well and hearty had she become. She and her daughter, who was about twenty-one years old, sat at table beside their uncle. During the entertainment, they arose and withdrew for awhile. When they returned, the mother stood somewhat
back while the daughter, wearing a beautiful veil and carrying a little white vase of perfume, went behind Jesus, broke it, and poured the contents over His head. Then with both hands she smoothed it right and left over His hair, and drew the part behind the ears through her hands. After that she gathered up the end of her veil, passed it over His head in order to dry it, and retired. A quantity of food was distributed to the poor outside the house.
This house was not the uncle’s former residence. It was one to which he had removed with Enue, in order to avoid intercourse with the pagans and the frequenting of their temples; still it was not in the Jewish quarter. Enue was the daughter of either his brother or sister. She had had communications with the Jews, one of whom she had married, but he was now deceased. It was, however, from her pagan parents that she inherited all her wealth. On leaving their old home, Enue and her uncle had left behind quantities of corn, clothes, and covers for the poor.
Caesarea-Philippi was four hours east of Lesem, or Lais, whither the Syrophenician had come to Jesus; they were consequently not one and the same city.
During Jesus’ stay in Caesarea, the pagans celebrated a feast near the fountain in the city. It had reference to the benefit they derived from the water. Incense was burned on tripods before an idol, around which was gathered a crowd of maidens wearing crowns. The idol was made up of three or four figures sitting back to back, each having its own head, hands, and feet. The arms down to the elbows were fastened to the body, but the hands were outstretched. The fountain on all sides poured out water into basins. On one side it flowed into an enclosed place in which were private halls and bathing cisterns. This was the Jews’ bathing place.
When the pagan feast was over, Jesus went thither and prepared several of the Jews, who after-ward received Baptism from the disciples. The ceremony concluded, Jesus with several of His disciples returned to the home of Enue and her uncle and took leave of them. Humbly, reverently, and with many tears, these worthy people bade goodbye to Jesus. They had previously sent presents to the place outside the city gate where Jesus continued a while longer His instructions to the poor travelers belonging to the caravan and to others from the city. The presents consisted of bread, corn, garments, and covers, all of which with whatever else they had received, Jesus caused to be distributed among the needy. Many of the devout Jews and the newly baptized followed this example of charity. They measured out corn and distributed linen, covers, mantles and bread to the poor, for whom this was a gala day.
Jesus was afterward constrained by the Pharisees, though in the most polite manner, to enter the synagogue and explain some points to them. The Apostles accompanied their Master, and quite a considerable crowd was present. The Pharisees had devised all kinds of captious questions on the subject of divorce, for there were many complicated matrimonial affairs in this place, and Jesus had already reconciled some parties and set them right. The Pharisees now began to dispute maliciously with Jesus, and call Him to account for all that He exacted of His disciples, for a young man in their party had complained to them of Him. This young man was rich and well-educated, and he had long before pushed himself upon Jesus as His disciple. But Jesus had laid down to him several conditions, namely, that he should leave father and mother, distribute his wealth to the poor, etc. He had again, at Caesarea-Philippi, offered himself to Jesus. But he still wanted to retain his fortune and the right to administer it himself, in consequence of which Jesus had again dismissed him. The Pharisees asked Jesus why He imposed such unheard-of conditions upon people. The young man alleged divers things that Jesus had said and called upon the Apostles to witness to his statements, for they too had heard them. The Apostles became embarrassed. They were not prepared for such an attack, and they knew not what to answer. The Pharisees therefore reproached Jesus with fraternizing with the ignorant only, and ascribed His sending away the young man to the fact that the latter was educated. Jesus replied to them in very severe words, and left them to resume His journey.
On leaving the city, Jesus gave instructions to the Apostles and disciples, and sent them to places at a considerable distance east and northeast. They had before them a long and difficult journey to Damascus, to Arabia, and to cities which they had never yet visited. Jesus Himself with two disciples, leaving Lake Phiala on the left, went to Argob, a city built on a height four hours direct from Caesarea. There He put up with the Levites near the synagogue. Argob was for the most part inhabited by Jews. The few pagans in it were poor and worked for them. Cotton goods were manufactured here, women, children, and men being engaged in spinning and weaving. The place suffered from want of water, which had to be carried up to the city in leathern bottles, and then poured into the cisterns. Jesus taught in a public square, healed some of the sick, and visited in their own homes some old and infirm people, whom He cured and consoled. Almost all the inhabitants had been baptized, and there were no Pharisees among them. A very distant view could be commanded from Argob. They could see far over into Upper Galilee, the Mount of Beatitudes rose before them, and the prospect down into Bethsaida-Julias was remarkably beautiful.
Jesus, with His two disciples, and escorted a part of the way by several people of Argob, started again on His journey. He crossed the mountainous district eastward toward Regaba, and halted at a distance of two hours from that city, at an open cabin belonging to the inn. The caravans, which three times a year passed in this direction, often encamped in this place. Jesus was here met by four of His young disciples, who brought with them a supply of provisions. They had come from Jerusalem, taking Capharnaum in their route.
From the inn Jesus went to the citadel, or stronghold of Regaba, where a great multitude—besides many from the caravan—had gathered. The citadel looked as if hewn out of a rock. Around it stood some rows of houses and a synagogue. Six of the Apostles again joined Jesus here. They had been to neighboring places east of Caesarea, the others having gone to greater distances. These six were Peter, Andrew, John, James the Greater, Philip, and James the Less. There were many Pharisees here. The synagogue was so crowded that even the standing room was occupied. Jesus took His text from Jeremias. He said that now they were eager to see and to hear Him, but the time would come when they would all abandon Him, mock and maltreat Him.
The Pharisees began a violent dispute with Jesus, again bringing forward their charge that He drove out the devil through the power of Beelzebub. Jesus called them children of the father of lies, and told them that God no longer desired bloody sacrifices. I heard Him speaking of the Blood of the Lamb, of the innocent blood that they would soon pour out, and of which the blood of animals was only a symbol. With the Sacrifice of the Lamb, He continued, their religious rites would come to an end. All they that believed in the Sacrifice of the Lamb, would be reconciled to God, but they to whom He was addressing Himself should, as the murderers of the Lamb, be condemned. He warned His disciples in presence of the Pharisees to beware of them. This so enraged these men that Jesus and His disciples had to withdraw and hurry off into the desert. I saw among the listening crowd, some men with cudgels. Jesus had never before attacked His aggressors so boldly. He and His disciples passed the night in the desert and then went to Corozain.
Crowds of people flocked thither, and laid their sick along the road by which Jesus was to come. On His way to the synagogue, He cured the dropsical, the lame, and the blind.
In spite of the violent attacks of the Pharisees, Jesus spoke in prophetic terms of His future Passion. He alluded to their repeated sacrifices and expiations, notwithstanding which they still remained full of sins and abomination. Then He spoke of the goat which at the Feast of Atonement was driven from Jerusalem into the desert with the sins of the people laid upon it. He said very significantly (and yet they did not understand Him) that the time was drawing near when in the same way they would drive out an innocent Man, One that loved them, One that had done everything for them, One that truly bore their sins. They would drive Him out, He said, and murder Him amid the clash of arms. At these words, a great din and jeering shouts arose among the Pharisees. Jesus left the synagogue and went out into the city. The Pharisees came to Him and demanded an explanation of what He had just said, but He replied that they could not now under-stand it.
While Jesus was being thus pressed upon, a deaf and dumb man was brought to Him that He might cure him. He was a shepherd of that region, good and pious. His friends brought him to Jesus, whom they implored to lay His hand upon him. Thereupon Jesus commanded that he should be separated from the crowd. His friends obeyed, but the Pharisees followed. Jesus therefore cured him in their presence, that they might see that He healed by virtue of prayer and faith in His Heavenly Father, and not through the devil. Jesus put His fingers into the ears of the mute, moistened His fingers with His own saliva and touched the man’s tongue with it. Then sighing, He glanced up to Heaven and said: “Be thou open!” At the same instant, the man could both hear and speak perfectly, and full of joy he gave thanks. But Jesus commanded him to refrain from talking or boasting about his cure.
The crowd becoming greater, for a caravan had just arrived, Jesus and His companions left the city and went two or three hours farther on to Matthew’s custom house. But as here too the crowd was on the increase, Jesus, leaving a couple of His disciples behind, embarked with the others and rowed to Bethsaida-Julias, where they landed and remained until night in a solitary place at the foot of the Mount of Beatitudes.
Before daylight they left Bethsaida and rowed again to the east side of the lake, where Jesus delivered a discourse on the mountain ridge beyond Matthew’s custom house. There were pagans from Decapolis present, also the people belonging to the caravan. Many sick were brought up the mountain on litters and asses, and Jesus healed them.
Jesus taught of prayer, how and where it should be made, and of perseverance in it. He said: “When a child asks for bread, the father does not give it a stone, nor does he give it a serpent when it asks for a fish, or a scorpion instead of an egg.” He remarked as an illustration that He knew pagans who had such confidence in God that they never petitioned for anything, but took with thanks all that was given them. “If servants and strangers have such confidence,” said Jesus, “what ought not that of the children of the Father to be?” He spoke also of gratitude for restoration to health, which gratitude should be evinced by amendment of life, and of the punishment incurred by a relapse into sin. The spiritual state of those that relapse is always worse than before their cure. By this time the crowd had become so great that Jesus was again forced to withdraw—not, however, before He had announced a great instruction to be delivered on the following day upon another mountain. This last-named mount was east of the Mount of Beatitudes, and to it flocked the multitude from all sides. The whole region around, mountains and valleys, was covered with encampments, and everywhere resounded the question: “Where is Jesus?” Jesus taught upon the seventh and the eighth Beatitudes, after which, to escape the crowd, He went with the Apostles and disciples on board Peter’s ship. They rowed down the lake, but did not land, because the people, having secured boats, were following them.
Conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. Feeding of the Four Thousand. The Pharisees Demand a Sign
Next morning Jesus and His followers ascended the high mountain one hour to the northeast of Little Corozain, and beyond that, one upon which the first multiplication of the loaves had taken place. It was in the desert to the right of Corozain, two and a half hours west of Regaba, which was on a still higher elevation. Up where Jesus delivered the instruction there was a large level space, not far from the road by which He had lately travelled from Caesarea-Philippi to Regaba. The place was much used as a camping ground for travelers. The ruins of fortifications were found on it, and a long rocky ledge, upon which the travelers used to spread their provisions at meals. Once upon a time this region was a perfect solitude. Below this plateau were little dells and dales, in which the asses and other beasts of burden could graze. A considerable crowd was already assembled on the plateau, while others were still flocking thither from all quarters.
Here it was that Jesus concluded the Eight Beatitudes and delivered the so-called Sermon on the Mount. His words on this occasion were more than ordinarily forcible and impressive. Crowds of strangers and pagans were present, the whole multitude, exclusive of women and children, numbering about four thousand. Toward evening, Jesus paused in His teaching and said to John: “I have compassion on the multitudes, because they continue with Me now three days, and have nothing to eat; but I will not send them away fasting lest they faint in the way.” John replied: “We are far in the desert, and to bring bread this distance would be hard. Shall we gather for them the fruits and berries that are still on the trees around here ?” Jesus answered by telling him to ask the other Apostles how many loaves they had. The latter answered: “Seven loaves and seven little fishes.” The fishes were, however, an arm in length. Upon receiving this answer, Jesus directed that the empty breadbaskets the people had brought with them, along with the loaves and fishes, should be laid upon the rocky ledge; after which He continued to teach a good half-hour. He spoke very plainly of His being the Messiah, of the persecutions that awaited Him, and of His approaching imprisonment. But on that day, He said, those mountains would quake and that rock (here He pointed to the stone ledge) whereon He had announced the truth they had refused to receive, would split asunder. Then He cried woe to Capharnaum, to Corozain, and to many other places of that region. On the day of His arrest they should all become conscious of having rejected salvation. He spoke of the happiness of this region to which He had broken the Bread of Life, but added that the strangers passing through had carried away with them that happiness. The children of the house threw that Bread under the table, while the stranger, the little whelps, as the Syrophenician had called them, gathered up the crumbs, which were sufficient to vivify and enliven whole towns and districts. Jesus then took leave of the people. He implored them once more to do penance and amend their life, repeated His menaces in the most forcible language, and informed them that this was the last time He would teach in those parts. The people wept. They were full of admiration at His words, although they did not comprehend them all.
After that, Jesus commanded them to take their places on the declivity around the mountain, and, as on the preceding occasion, the Apostles and disciples were directed to range them in order. Jesus divided the bread and fish as before, and the disciples carried the portions round in baskets to the people on both sides of the mount. When all was over, seven baskets of scraps were gathered up and distributed to poor travelers.
During Jesus’ discourse, a number of Pharisees had been standing among the crowd. Some of them left and went down into the valley before the close, while others remained long enough to hear Jesus’ menaces and to witness the multiplication of the bread. Before the people dispersed, however, these latter descended the mountain, in order to confer with the others as to how they should meet Jesus on His corning down. These Pharisees numbered about twenty. Under the pretext of visiting the
synagogues, they constantly followed Jesus in little bands, in order to spy His actions. They had been in Caesarea-Philippi, in Nobah, Regaba, and Corozain. By messengers or by word of mouth, they transmitted to Capharnaum and Jerusalem all they saw and heard.
Jesus took leave of the people, who shed tears and lifted up their voices thanking and praising Him. He broke away from them only with difficulty and went to the lake with the disciples, in order to cross over to the southeastern side into the region of Magdala and Dalmanutha. When about to embark just above Matthew’s custom office, the Pharisees approached and, at the foot of the mountain upon which the first multiplication of the loaves had taken place, demanded from Him a sign from Heaven. This they did because He had spoken of frightful tremors of the earth and other signs in nature. He replied to them as is recorded in the Gospel. I heard Him mention also a certain number of weeks at the end of which the sign of Jonas would be given them. This number exactly corresponded with His Crucifixion and Resurrection. Jesus then left them standing there, and went with the Apostles to Peter’s ship, which the other disciples had in readiness to receive Him. They rowed out into full sea, and then descended the Jordan current, in which the ship needed only to be steered. They passed the night on board, praying at certain hours, and thus reached the confines of Magdala and Dalmanutha.
Next morning, getting out of the current, they rowed back to the west side of the lake, and then remarked that they had only one loaf with them.
The passage was slow, and Jesus instructed His followers on many points. He spoke of His impending captivity, of His Passion, of the persecution He should endure, and said in terms more significant than ever that He was Christ, the Messiah. They believed His words; but although they could not make them square with their simple, human way of comprehending things, and indulged in their customary views, views derived from their own experience, yet they made a note of them, and ranked them among others of a deeply significant and prophetic nature. He spoke also of His going to Jerusalem and of the persecution that would be attendant on the same. They would, He said, be scandalized on His account, and things would go so far that they would cast stones after Him. Jesus said also that whoever would not renounce all his property and his relatives and follow Him faithfully in His time of persecution, could not be His disciple. He spoke likewise of the journeys He still had to make and of the multiplied labors to be accomplished before His arrest. Many, He said, who had abandoned Him would again return. The disciples asked whether that young man who wanted first to bury his father, would return; whether Jesus would not then receive him, for indeed he appeared to them to deserve it. But Jesus laid open to them that youth’s disposition, and showed them how he clung to earthly things. I understood on this occasion that the expression “to bury one’s father” was figurative, and meant “to put one’s affairs in order.” It was this that the young man wanted to do. He wanted to put his affairs in order, and obtain a division of the inheritance between himself and his old father, in order to secure his own share before separating from him. When Jesus spoke of the young man’s hankering after temporal goods, Peter exclaimed with animation: “Thank God, I have never had such thoughts since I have followed Thee!” But Jesus rebuked him, saying that he should be silent on that point, until asked to speak.
When Jesus and the disciples arrived at Bethsaida, they went to Andrew’s to refresh themselves and there remained undisturbed and without the annoyance of a great crowd since, not knowing whither Jesus had retired, the people had dispersed. There was in Bethsaida an aged man blind from his birth, whom Jesus had hitherto refused to cure. Now, however, he was brought to Him again and when Jesus and the disciples were on the point of returning to the ship, the man cried out to Him for help. Jesus took him by the hand, led him outside the city, and there before His Apostles and disciples, touched his eyes with His tongue and with saliva, laid His hands upon them, and asked whether he saw anything. At these words, the man opened his eyes and stared around, saying: “I see people as large as trees walking about.” Jesus laid His hand once more on his eyes, and bade him again look around. Now he saw perfectly. Jesus ordered him to go home and thank God, but not to go about the city boasting of his cure.
Toward evening, Jesus and His Apostles rowed to the opposite shore of the lake and, having landed, took the road up the eastern bank of the Jordan to Bethsaida-Julias. On this journey, the Apostles and disciples who had been dispatched from Caesarea-Philippi on their mission toward the east, as they were coming down from the mountains, met Jesus and His party, and all set out together for Bethsaida-Julias.
On the way, Jesus spoke of His approaching arrest and of the dangers that menaced; whereupon the Apostles implored Him not to send them away any more, that they might be near Him in case of need.
An inn had been prepared for them in Bethsaida-Julias. As they drew near to the city, where Jesus’ coming had already been announced by the people that had gone thither for the Sabbath, some of the inhabitants came out to meet them. They were received graciously and conducted to the inn for refreshments and washing of the feet. A great number of Gentiles dwelt in Bethsaida, and they now saluted Jesus from a distance.
Jesus taught in the synagogue. There were present many Scribes and Pharisees from Saphet, at which place was a school for the study of science, human and divine.
All were greatly rejoiced at the sudden arrival of Jesus, who visited them now for the first time; the generality of the people were sincere in their desire to see Him, but the Scribes were actuated by vanity. They wished to hear the Teacher whose fame was sounded throughout the whole country, especially at Capharnaum, and to judge of His merits. They were perfectly courteous, though like certain professors cold and proud in their bearing. They disputed with Jesus, putting to Him questions out of the Law and the Prophets. Still there was nothing malicious in their intentions. They were moved rather by curiosity, and impelled by vanity to display their learning before the people.
Jesus read and commented upon the Lesson for the Sabbath, and taught upon the Fourth Commandment: “Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land.” To the words, “thy days may be long in the land,” He gave a most admirable and profound explanation. “That stream must dry up,” He said, “which obstructs its own source.” The instruction was followed by a festal entertainment, at which the school children assisted at separate tables. During it, Jesus explained the parable of the workmen in the vineyard.
Julias was a modern city, not yet completed. It was very beautiful, constructed upon the pagan style with numerous arches and columns. It lay along the Jordan. On the east, where it was contiguous with the rising heights, the rear of many of the houses was hewn out of the solid rock.
When Jesus, after having taught once more in the synagogue, was walking outside the city, the inhabitants stopped Him to ask about the true doctrine and what they should do. He answered that they would not follow His instructions, even if He gave them to them. They were, He said, inquisitive. They had already in this region heard His doctrine so often. Did they by these questions, ask another? He had even announced it openly in the synagogue. These people led Jesus to some of their newly constructed buildings, and to a place where lay stores of building materials, wood and stone. They spoke to Him of the beautiful new style of architecture. Jesus embraced the opportunity to relate to them the parables of the house built upon the sand, and of the other built upon a rock. He referred to the cornerstone which the builders would reject, and of the overthrow of their building.
On the way He healed several sick people, some lame, others dropsical, and a couple of possessed who were, besides, deprived of reason.
From Bethsaida-Julias, Jesus with The Twelve and about thirty disciples went to the country town Sogane, an hour and a half from Caesarea, where He taught and cured. Some of the inhabitants of Bethsaida-Julias escorted Jesus and His party as far as the point where the Jordan flowed into Lake Merom. The people of Sogane came crowding around Jesus, begging for an instruction. He taught and healed until toward evening, and then with His disciples went back about the distance of an hour to a mount, upon which He spent the greater part of the night in prayer.
Peter Receives the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven
On the way to the mount and until Jesus retired to pray, the Apostles and disciples that had last returned from their several missions gave their Master a full account of all that had happened to them, all that they had seen and heard and done. He listened to everything and exhorted them to pray and hold themselves in readiness for what He was going to communicate to them.
When before daybreak they again gathered about Jesus, The Twelve stood around Him in a circle. On His right were first, John, then James the Elder, and thirdly, Peter. The disciples stood outside the circle, the oldest of them nearest. Then Jesus, as if resuming the discourse of the preceding night, asked: “Who do men say that I am?” The Apostles and the oldest of the disciples repeated the various conjectures of the people concerning Him, as they had heard here and there in different places; some, for instance, said that He was the Baptist, others Elias, while others again took Him for Jeremias, who had arisen from the dead. They related all that had become known to them on this subject, and then remained in expectation of Jesus’ reply. There was a short pause. Jesus was very grave, and they fixed their eyes upon His countenance with some impatience. At last, He said: “And you, for whom do you take Me?” No one felt impelled to answer. Only Peter, full of faith and zeal, taking one step forward into the circle, with hand raised like one solemnly affirming, exclaimed aloud and boldly, as if the voice and tongue of all: “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God!” Jesus replied with great earnestness, His voice strong and animated: “Blessed art thou, Simon, son of Jona, because flesh and blood hath not revealed this to thee, but My Father who is in Heaven! And I say to thee: Thou art a rock, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in Heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven!” Jesus made this response in a manner both solemn and prophetic. He appeared to be shining with light, and was raised some distance above the ground. Peter, in the same spirit in which he had confessed to the Godhead, received Jesus’ words in their full signification. He was deeply impressed by them. But the other Apostles appeared troubled. They glanced from Jesus to Peter as the latter exclaimed with such zeal: “Thou art Christ, the Son of God!” Even John allowed his anxiety to become so manifest that Jesus afterward, when walking along the road with him alone, reproved him gravely for his expression of surprise.
Jesus’ words to Peter were spoken just at the moment of sunrise. The whole scene was so much the more grave and solemn, since Jesus had for that purpose retired with His disciples into the mountain and commanded them to pray. Peter alone was sensibly impressed by it. The other Apostles did not fully comprehend, and still formed to themselves earthly ideas. They thought that Jesus intended to bestow upon Peter the office of High Priest in His Kingdom, and James told John, as they walked together, that very probably they themselves would receive places next after Peter.
Jesus now told the Apostles in plain terms that He was the promised Messiah. He applied to Him-self all the passages to that effect found in the Prophets, and said that they must now go to Jerusalem for the Feast. They then directed their steps southwestwardly and returned to the Jordan bridge.
Peter, still profoundly impressed by Jesus’ words relative to the power of the Keys, drew near to Him on the way to ask for information upon some points not clear to him. He was so full of faith and ardor that he fancied his work was to begin right away, for the conditions, namely, the Passion of Christ and the descent of the Holy Ghost, were as yet unknown to him. He asked therefore whether in this or that case also he could absolve from sin, and made some remarks upon publicans and those guilty of open adultery. Jesus set his mind at ease by telling him that he would later on know all things clearly, that they would be very different from what he expected, and that a new Law would be substituted for the old.
As they proceeded on their journey, Jesus began to enlighten His Apostles upon what was in store for them. They should now go to Jerusalem, eat the Paschal lamb with Lazarus, after which they might expect many labors, much weariness and persecution. He mentioned in general terms many circumstances of His future: namely, His raising of one of their best friends from the dead, which fact was to give rise to such fury among His enemies that He would be obliged to flee; and their going again after another year to the Feast, at which time one of them would betray Him. He told them moreover that He would be maltreated, scourged, mocked, and shamefully put to death; that He must die for the sins of men, but that on the third day He would rise again. He told them all this in detail and proved it from the Prophets. His manner was very grave, but full of love. Peter was so distressed at the thought of Jesus’ being maltreated and put to death that, following Him, he spoke to Him in private, disputing with Him and exclaiming against such suffering, such treatment. No, he said, that should not be. He would rather die himself than suffer such a thing to happen! “Far be it from Thee, Lord! This shall not be unto Thee!” he exclaimed. But Jesus turned to him gravely and said with warmth: “Go behind Me, Satan! Thou art a scandal unto Me. Thou savorest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men!” and then walked on. Peter, struck with fear, began to turn over in his mind why it was that Jesus a short time before had said not from flesh and blood but by a revelation from God he (Peter) had declared Him to be the Christ; but now He called him Satan and, because he had protested against His sufferings, He reproached him with speaking not according to God, but according to human desires and considerations. Comparing Jesus’ words of praise with those of His reproof, Peter became more humble and looked upon Him with greater faith and admiration. He was nevertheless very much afflicted, since he became thereby only the more convinced of the reality of the sufferings awaiting Jesus.
The Apostles and disciples proceeded in separate bands, each walking with the Lord by turns. He hurried on quickly, stopping nowhere, shunning the towns and villages as much as possible until nightfall, when they put up at the inn near the Baths of Bethulia. Here Lazarus and some of the disciples from Jerusalem were awaiting Jesus’ coming.
Lazarus had already been informed that Jesus and His disciples would eat the Paschal lamb with him, and he had come hither to meet Jesus in order to warn Him, the Apostles, and disciples in respect to this Paschal solemnity. He told them that an insurrection threatened during the Feast. Pilate wanted to levy a new tax upon the Temple in order to erect a statue to the Emperor. He desired likewise certain sacrifices in his honor and that certain high titles of reverence should be publicly decreed him. The Jews were on that account ready for revolt, and a large number of Galileans had risen up against Pilate’s proceedings. They were headed by a certain Judas, a Gaulonite, who had numerous adherents and who inveighed hotly against the servitude of his people and the Roman imposts. It would be
well, Lazarus said, for Jesus to absent Himself from the Feast, as great disturbances might arise. Jesus, however, replied that His time was not yet come, that nothing would happen to Him. This uprising was but the forerunner of a far greater one that would take place the next year when, as He said, His time would have come. Then would the Son of Man be delivered over into the hands of sinners.
Jesus sent His Apostles and disciples on ahead. They were divided into separate bands and were to journey by different routes. Simon and Thaddeus, Nathanael Chased and Judas Barsabas, He kept with Himself. Some were to go down along the Jordan, while others proceeded westward from Garizim through Ephraim, visiting on their way to the Feast some places at which they had not yet been. Lazarus journeyed with the disciples. Jesus commanded them not to go into the Samaritan cities, and gave them several directions as to their conduct. He Himself went as far as Ginnim, to the estate of Lazarus, where He passed the night.
On the following day He went through Lebona, Korea, and the desert to Bethania.