« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
together let no man put asunder.” “Why,” these men asked, "did Moses allow it?" “ Because," replied Jesus, "the hardness of their hearts' made the people fit for nothing better than that temporary arrangement, though “ at first" no such loose regulation was permissible. And then, a plainly-implied denunciation of the scandalous life of Antipas and his wife ended the discussion. (Matt. xix. 1—9.)
The stay here (“ beyond Jordan") must have been of short duration, when Jesus turned His face homeward towards Olivet. On His way, He fell in with a rich young man, who inquired as to the best method of inheriting "eternal life.” Humble, earnest, apparently impetuous, he ran after Jesus and went on his knees. Perhaps he knew Jesus was going away, but sincerity sat on his flushed features, and having seen his face Jesus “ loved him.” He had “kept the commandments” in the letter, but " one thing,” Jesus said," thou lackest;" "sell whatsoever thou hast and give to the poor; and come and follow Me,” and in exchange shalt have treasure in heaven.” It was too much for this money-loving youth, to sweep out at once, all his "great possessions;" and so he went away “sad” and “
very sorrowful.” He might have, probably had, second and better thoughts, and after all he might find "eternal life.” Jesus saw and felt the fearful hazards of wealth. “How hardly,” He exclaimed, “ shall they that have riches, enter into the Kingdom of God! »» " It is easier for & camel to go through the eye of a needle -a small side city-gate, so called. True, things were quite possible, in the spiritual Kingdom, that seemed quite impossible in the natural kingdom. Now, the Apostles had given up all, money and everything, for Jesus; and suddenly this flashed across Peter's mind. Peter, always with some eye to profitable results, and physiologically of a nervous temperament, could not repress either his nerves or his inquisitiveness, and asked, right out, " what shall we have !" " Have!” did he not know ? a "throne" each, in the coming judgment; "a hundred-fold” in spiritual wealth; and “eternal life” besides. But everyone was to keep in mind, what He had told them repeatedly, that they must not be self-seeking nor self-inflated, for there were “first ” that should be “last,” and “last” that should be " first." This lesson of self-resignation and self-forgetfulness, the very last men learn, was concluded by the striking parable of the “Vineyard and Labourers," showing clearly that the faithful would have their reward, and that murmurings and jealousies and avarice can have no place in the Kingdom of God. (Matt. xix. 16—30, xx. 1-16; Mark x. 17–22; Luke
The faithful band were still on the east side of the river when a messenger met them with the sad information that “Lazarus whom Jesus loved was sick.” For two days longer Jesus lingered on the left bank of the river, and then said, “Let us go into Judea again." The bitter spirit and fierce temper they left behind, made the Apostles reluctant to face the Jerusalem fanatics “ again." For His now short EarthLife, Jesus told them, His Father would care for Him: and besides, Lazarus, “ slept," and He must go and " awake him.” Death, He had often called a "sleep,” but His disciples now understood a natural sleep; when, He said " plainly Lazarus was dead,” and He must restore him to
life. Well might the men dread going near Jerusalem, and look on it as a wilful rushing into the arms of murderers. They hesitated again and again, but no persuasion could delay the speedy return of Jesus, till at length, with a certain conviction of a fatal issue, and as if in a fit of des. peration, Thomas broke out, “Let us go, that we may die with Him!” By evening, travelling eighteen or twenty miles, they were near the little village on the mount of Olives, barely two miles from those most implacable of all the enemies of Jesus. There had been a funeral, and a crowd of respectable people from Jerusalem were at the house of His friends. Prudence suggested a halt, just outside the place. But by some means the thrifty, quick-eared Martha caught a whisper that Jesus was close by, and she hastened to find Him. The delay of days had grieved the sisters, for their brother seems to have died directly the messenger had left. After the news had reached Him, Jesus had delayed two days, and another day had been consumed on the journey. Four days had thus passed, and Martha when she saw Jesus, in despairing tones cried, “Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died !" Mary said the same afterwards. Jesus saw these sisters were heart-broken but tried to console them, saying to Martha, “Thy brother shall rise again." Ah! she knew he would, she said, "in the Resurrection at the last day." From her distressed and oppressed heart, He then lifted the despair and anguish, by those Divine words, which still continue to thrill millions of human breasts—“I am the resurrection and the Life! he that believeth in Me though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die!” He then inquired from Martha, “Believest thou this?” “ Yea, Lord,” exclaimed Martha, “I believe thou art the Christ, the Son of God!” Martha hurried home, “secretly” told Mary, and Mary went “hastily" to see Jesus. The scene at the house was most affecting, and all felt its sad lessons. The tender love, terrible misery, loud lamentations, sore griefs of the women, deeply affected Jesus. Amid the distress He drew a heavy sigh; “groaned in spirit, and was troubled.” The human Jesus shuddered, shook, and then asked tenderly, “ Where have ye laid him ?" The reply was, “Lord, come and see." He went, and on the way, found relief to His troubled spirit, in a stream of tears. Ah! yes, “ Jesus wept," to see this flood of human sorrow. Some!of the visitors remarked, “See how He loved him!” others, who knew He cured the blind beggar at Jeru. salem suggested dubiously, that He gave sight to the blind, why could He not have saved Lazarus from death? These ill-natured criticisms amid such family distress fell heavy on His heart, and again as they neared the grave, He sighed deeply.
“ Take ye away the stone," said He, meaning the slab which closed the entrance of the cave-sepulchre. That was quite useless now, responded the wailing Martha, “ for he hath been dead four days," and decomposition has set in. Outside the village Martha had said, she “believed.” What had now become of her faith? Yet, had not Jesus there told her, that if she believed, she should see the glory of God”? The “stone,' however, was removed: then with eyes looking up into the heavens, the prayers of Jesus went aloud to the Universal Father; and then, three “loud” words cried, “ Lazarus come forth!” At these simple words death fled, and
life came back ; wrapped in his “grave-clothes,” the lifeless man obeyed the summons, and, though “bound hand and foot,” and his face, even "wrapped" with a napkin,“ the dead came forth ;” the warm blood in his reins; the glow of life in his face, to live, as tradition tells, thirty years longer. Jesus told why he prayed aloud to the Father—" because," He said, “ of the people which stand by,” that “they might believe that the Father hath sent Me;" and now, the answer was before them. Well might the living example of restored life and of the supernatural power of Jesus, close to Jerusalem, disturb for long the peace of the chief priests there ; and well might these men “consult" together as to the best means of destroying Lazarus—the man who, every day, in their very midst, was a standing condemnation of the persecutors and murderers of Jesus. Some went from the funeral to the City and spread the true story of this wondrous resurrection from death to life, but others told cynical tales to the Priests and Pharisees, who decided at once, that unless Jesus could be put out of the way, all the people would rally round Him. “From that day forth,” we are told, they more than ever plotted for His death, as they felt His “many miracles” could not be denied; and Caiphas, as highpriest, declared that, to save the country, He must be sacrificed. Jesus knew, perhaps from Nicodemus, that a price was fixed on His head, and He retired again for several weeks in the desert, to a small village, “ called Ephraim,” probably about twenty miles away. In, and about that mountain village, He calmly awaited the Passover feast, with the resolve then, to offer up His life for the sins of a guilty world. Here were given some of the last precious lessons to His faithful Apostles, while the Sanhedrim invited those who knew of His retreat to reveal it (John xi. 1-57). The Talmud says, that forty days before His death, Jesus was excommunicated to the blast of 400 trumpets.
At length the Passover neared, and Jesus left His hiding-place to meet the death He had so long foreseen and foretold. He knew what He was doing when He set out on this last long journey. Not a shadow of precipitancy, or desperation, or ostentation, or misgiving, or fear when He descended from the heights of Ephraim and made for the guilty City. The Cross and its agonies, He chose and embraced with a supreme resolve and a Divine enthusiasm. Severely, but calmly and confidently He tramped on. Caravans must have thronged the roads, many pilgrims halting to " wash” in the valley of the Jordan, ere they entered the City of the great Feast. (Matt. xx. 17, 18; Mark x. 32, 33 ; Luke xviii. 31–34.) As He gazed on the crowds He could have been in no mood to join in their convivialities. On the way a strange anxious solemnity came over Him; and again, He foretold, in sad and literal detail, the circumstances of His near death. His soul elevated to an unusual spiritual dignity, He calmly headed the solemn procession. The Apostles were amazed," even “afraid” at the solemn surroundings, till He called them aside, and quietly told what was coming-even to the betrayal, the scourging, mocking, spitting, the Sanhedrim scenes, the pitiable Pilate picture, the barbarous murder, and the strange resurrection on the “third day" (Mark x. 32—34). Blinded by their preconceived notions, these men could only see that somehow, in some unaccountable way, a temporal
kingdom would come out of these impressive events; and Salome tried to bespeak in time a prominent and permanent place for her two sons, John and James. She knew how faithful they had been, after having left good prospects and positions, and in this coming new reign, she desired her children should at least hold no subordinate offices. She went so far as to ask, would Jesus appoint "one to sit on His right hand and the other on His left:?” This was unduly ambitious, very selfish indeed, and called forth a firm rebuke. The whole “twelve" seem to have expected " thrones” of some kind ; but the “ two thieves " had the honour Salome sought for her own John and James. Rather than " thrones," a bitter cup, Jesus said awaited them all; a baptism of fire and of blood was at hand; and He asked whether they were ready for that? If they were, then a spiritual pre-eminence would certainly be theirs; but their actions were heathenish, Gentile-like: obviously whoever wanted to be “great,” and “master," was fit only to be “servant.”
This attempt to intrigue privately had moved the indignation of the other Apostles. Jesus called the whole together and gave them a beautiful lesson on the greatness of humility. He was willing, as they knew, to be the servant of all; was in fact going forth to die for them all. Could they not learn from Him? (Matt. xx. 20—28; Mark x. 35—45; Luke xviii. 32–34.) On the way they neared Jericho, near which place Jesus cured two blind men. No one could stop the shouting of these men. As they were crying for “ mercy,” He asked them what they wanted. They begged Him to open their blind eyes. “Go,"
,” He replied, addressing the one named Bartimæus, “thy faith hath saved thee.” Sight being restored, very naturally these men “glorified God,” as would M. Renan—we hopesimilarly circumstanced, caring not a rush about the modus operandi. It was now spring-time. The journey was continued ; but there were stil? fifteen miles of rough up-hill rocky roads to travel, from Jericho to Jerusalem; and robbers infested the narrow, lonely gorge leading out of the former town. But the procession was unmolested. Jericho had a large population of priests and “publicans,” and was then a busy town in a most luxurious neighbourhood, though now only a wretched Arab village. Zacchæus, the chief among the publicans, lived at Jericho, and, like the rest of the publicans, was most sincerely hated, because he was in the pay of the Romans, and had the reputation, at least, of a tax-harpy. He, however, had heard of Jesus somewhere in the neighbourhood of the River, and longed to see Him. A “little” man, Zacchæus had no chance of gratifying his eyes in a crowd; but, running in advance, he climbed a tree that he might look fairly at the one man in Judæa who did not despise a "publican.” Looking up, as He passed under the "sycamore tree,” Jesus saw the "little” inquisitive publican, perched amid its branches, and called to him “ to make haste and come down,” as He was going to be his guest. Little men are far more expert climbers than tall men, and, delighted with this public notice from the “great prophet,” little Zacchæus was soon on the foot-path leading the way homewards, that he might hospitably entertain his distinguished Visitor. What of badness was in Zacchæus, Jesus did not make worse by cynicism or contempt; and what of goodness was there He cherished and evoked by
courtesy and tenderness. Boorishness always loses ; civility ever wins. The small man's heart was smitten and won by the power of love, and in the crowd he said he would make some amends for his past badly-spent life, by giving “half” of all he had to the poor, and by restoring “fourfold” to those he had wronged by extortion. Zacchæus then—and “he was rich" we are told—had a good deal of money come honestly by. Jesus saw how sincere and earnest he was, and at his home said, “ This day is salvation come to this house." The grumblers about “publicans” were told, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost”; and the scene closed with that impressive parable of the “ Pounds," the salient points of which seem to have been artistically borrowed and worked up out of the Roman experiences and histories of Archelaus and Antipas. (Luke xix. 1—27.)
As the journey was resumed, Jesus did not mix with the processional crowd, but led the way alone, and the people followed, as if awe-stricken, orderly and reverently. Up hill as it was, and over craggy roads, the journey after this seems to have been rapid. By evening the little home at Bethany was reached again. It would not be possible to conceive the emotions of Lazarus and his sisters, as Jesus once more crossed the threshold of their door. How much He “loved” them they would feel more profoundly than ever; and they would realise more and more that His was an all-subduing, all-conquering love--not simply from those hot tears He shed, nor from that restoration from death to life, nor because of its kinship with everything we know of patience, peace, tenderness; but because of its being linked with a unique self-sacrifice, so vitally associated with all the agonies and all the glories of that Cross He had so often spoken of. The bitter hatred of Lazarus at Jerusalem (John xii. 9-11), had not driven him to close his doors on Jesus. At once Lazarus made Him a supper, and as usual Martha, maid-of-all-work, "served." It is well, indeed, to see a man hold fast the truth; but better still, as in this case, to see the truth hold fast the man. The arrival at the village seems to have been on the Friday evening; only six days before the Passover. Part of the attendants of Jesus would disperse to the City, the rest to the booths in the suburbs; but Jesus remained with His dear friends at their home-named, it appears, “ The House of Simon the Leper”-probably the name by which Martha and Mary's house was known in the village, and it may be, derived from the owner, or from the father of the family, or from the deceased husband of Martha. On the next evening (the Sabbath), a special supper was provided, to which the Apostles were invited. A large number of people besides came, to look at and listen to Jesus, and especially to see Lazarus, the man whose body, a short time before, was decomposing in the grave, but which Jesus had raised again to life and health. At this supper it was that Mary broke open the “ costly" box of precious spikenard (value about £10), poured it on the head and feet of Jesus, and then “wiped His feet with her (long) hair.” This was extravagance in the eyes of the careful Galileane. “The odour of the ointment" "filled the house," and Judas could nct endure it. A mood of madness rushed into the man-the man with the money-bag—who seems to have taken this act of Mary as a fraud on