Chapter 21 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 23
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE ASCENT: FROM THE RIVER JORDAN TO THE MOUNT OF
THE MINISTRY OF LOVE, THE BLASPHEMY OF HATRED,
AND THE MISTAKES OF EARTHLY AFFECTION
THE RETURN TO CAPERNAUM
HEALING OF THE DEMONISED DUMB
PHARISAIC CHARGE AGAINST CHRIST
THE VISIT OF CHRIST'S MOTHER AND BRETHREN
(St. Luke 8:1-3; St. Matthew 9:32-35; St.
Mark 3:22, &c.; St. Matthew 12:46-50 and parallels.)
HOWEVER interesting and important to follow the steps of our
Lord on His journey through Galilee, and to group in their order the notices of
it in the Gospels, the task seems almost hopeless. In truth, since none of the
Evangelists attempted - should we not say, ventured - to write a 'Life' of the
Christ, any strictly historical arrangement lay outside their purpose. Their
point of view was that of the internal, rather than the external development of
this history. And so events, kindred in purpose, discourses bearing on the same
subject, or parables pointing to the same stretch of truth, were grouped
together; or, as in the present instance, the unfolding teaching of Christ and
the growing opposition of His enemies exhibited by joining together notices
which, perhaps, belong to different periods. And the lesson to us is, that,
just as the Old Testament gives neither the national history of Israel, nor the
biography of its heroes, but a history of the Kingdom of God in its progressive
development, so the Gospels present not a 'Life of Christ,' but the history of
the Kingdom of God in its progressive manifestation.
Yet, although there are difficulties connected with details, we
can trace in outline the general succession of events. We conclude, that Christ
was now returning to Capernaum from that Missionary journey1
of which Nain had been the southernmost point. On this journey He was attended,
not only by the Twelve, but by loving grateful women, who ministered to Him of
their substance. Among them three are specially named. 'Mary, called
Magdalene,' had received from Him special benefit of healing to body and soul.2
Her designation as Magdalene was probably derived from her native city,
Magdala,3 just as
several Rabbis are spoken of in the Talmud as 'Magdalene' (Magdelaah, or
Magdala, which was a Sabbath-day's journey from Tiberias,5
was celebrated for its dyeworks,6
and its manufactories of fine woolen textures, of which eighty are mentioned.7
Indeed, all that district seems to have been engaged in this industry.8
It was also reputed for its traffic in turtle-doves and pigeons for
purifications - tradition, with its usual exaggeration of numbers, mentioning
three hundred such shops.9
Accordingly, its wealth was very great, and it is named among the three cities
whose contributions were so large as to be sent in a wagon to Jerusalem.10
But its moral corruption was also great, and to this the Rabbis attributed its
Magdala had a Synagogue.12
Its name was probably derived from a strong tower which defended its
approaches, or served for outlook. This suggestion is supported by the
circumstance, that what seems to have formed part, or a suburb of Magdala,14
bore the names of 'Fish-tower' and 'Tower of the Dyers.' One at least, if not
both these towers, would be near the landing-place, by the Lake of Galilee, and
overlook its waters. The necessity for such places of outlook and defence,
making the town a Magdala, would be increased by the proximity of the
magnificent plain of Gennesaret, of which Josephus speaks in such rapturous
only twenty minutes to the north of Magdala descended the so-called 'Valley of
Doves' (the Wady Hamâm), through which passed the ancient caravan-road that led
over Nazareth to Damascus. The name 'valley of doves' illustrates the
substantial accuracy of the Rabbinic descriptions of ancient Magdala. Modern
travelers (such as Dean Stanley, Professor Robinson, Farrar,
and others) have noticed the strange designation 'Valley of Doves' without
being able to suggest the explanation of it, which the knowledge of its traffic
in doves for purposes of purification at once supplies. Of the many towns and
villages that dotted the shores of the Lake of Galilee, all have passed away
except Magdala, which is still represented by the collection of mud hovels that
bears the name of Mejdel. The ancient watch-tower which gave the place its name
is still there, probably standing on the same site as that which looked down on
Jesus and the Magdalene. To this day Magdala is celebrated for its springs and
rivulets, which render it specially suitable for dyeworks; while the shell-fish
with which these waters and the Lake are said to abound,16
might supply some of the dye.17
1. St. Luke viii. 1-3; St. Matt. ix. 35.
2. 'Out of whom went seven devils.' Those who are curious to see one attempt at finding a 'rational' basis for some of the Talmudical legends about Mary Magdalene and others connected with the history of Christ, may consult the essay of Rösch
in the Studien and Kritiken for 1873, pp. 77-115 (Die Jesus-Mythen d. Judenth.)
3. The suggestion that the word meant 'curler of hair,' which is made by Lightfoot,
and repeated by his modern followers, depends on entire misapprehension.
4. In Baba Mets. 25 a, middle, R. Isaac the Magdalene is introduced in a highly characteristic discussion about coins that are found. His remark about three coins laid on each other like a tower might, if it had not been connected with such a grave discussion, have almost seemed a pun on Magdala.
5. Jer. Erub. 22 d, end.
6. Ber. R. 79.
7. Jer. Taan. 69 a, line 15 from bottom.
8. Thus in regard to another village (not mentioned either by Relandus or Neubauer)
in the Midr. on Lament. ii. 2, ed. Warsh. p. 67 b, line 13 from bottom.
9. Midr. on Lament. ii. 2.
10. Jer. Taan. 69 a.
11. Jer. Taan. u.s.; Midr. on Lament. ii. 2, ed. Warsh. p. 67 b middle.
12. Midr. on Eccl. x. 8, ed. Warsh p. 102 b.
13. This Synagogue is introduced in the almost blasphemous account of the miracles of Simon ben Jochai, when he declared Tiberias free from the defilement of dead bodies, buried there.
14. This has been well shown by Neubauer, Géogr. de la Palestine, pp. 217, 218.
15. Jewish War iii. 10.
16. Baedeker's Palastina, pp. 268, 269.
17. It is at any rate remarkable that the Talmud (Megill. 6 a) finds in the ancient territory of Zebulun the Chilzon (Nwzlx) so largely used in dyeing purple and scarlet, and so very precious. Spurious dyes of the same colour were also produced (comp. Lewysohn, Zool. d. Talm. pp. 281-283).
Such details may help us more clearly to realise the home, and
with it, perhaps, also the upbringing and circumstances of her who not only
ministered to Jesus in His Life, but, with eager avarice of love, watched 'afar
off' His dying moments,18
and then sat over against the new tomb of Joseph in which His Body was laid.19
And the terrible time which followed she spent with her like-minded friends,
who in Galilee had ministered to Christ,20
in preparing those 'spices and ointments'21
which the Risen Saviour would never require. For, on that Easter-morning the
empty tomb of Jesus was only guarded by Angel-messengers, who announced to the
Magdalene and Joanna, as well as the other women,22
the gladsome tidings that His foretold Resurrection had become a reality. But
however difficult the circumstances may have been, in which the Magdalene came
to profess her faith in Jesus, those of Joanna (the Hebrew Yochani23)
must have been even more trying. She was the wife of Chuza, Herod's
possibly, though not likely, the Court-official whose son Jesus had healed by
the word spoken in Cana.25
The absence of any reference to the event seems rather opposed to this
supposition. Indeed, it seems doubtful, whether Chuza was a Jewish name.
In Jewish writings26
the designation ()zafw@k@)27
seems rather used as a by-name ('little pitcher') for a small, insignificant
person, than as a proper name.28 Only one other of those who ministered
to Jesus is mentioned by name. It is Susanna, the 'lily.' The names of
the other loving women are not written on the page of earth's history, but only
on that of the 'Lamb's Book of Life.' And they 'ministered to Him of their
substance.' So early did eternal riches appear in the grab of poverty; so soon
did love to Christ find its treasure in consecrating it to His Ministry. And
ever since has this been the law of His Kingdom, to our great humiliation and
yet greater exaltation in fellowship with Him.
18. St. Matt. xxvii. 56.
19. ver. 61.
20. St. Luke xxiii. 55.
21. ver. 56.
22. St. Luke xxiv. 10.
23. Seb. 62 b.
24. Curiously enough, the Greek term epi tropoV (steward) has passed into the Rabbinic Aphiterophos.
25. St. John iv. 46-54.
26. Delitzsch (Zeitsch. für Luther Theol. for 1876, p. 598), seems to regard Kuzith (tyzwk@) as the Jewish equivalent of Chuza. The word is mentioned in the Aruch
(ed. Landau, p. 801 b, where the references, however, are misquoted) as occurring in Ber. R. 23 and 51. No existing copy of the Midrash has these references, which seem to have been purposely omitted. It is curious that both occur in connection with Messianic passages. In any case, however, Kuzith was not a proper name, but some mystic designation. Lightfoot (Horæ Hebr. on Luke viii. 3) reads in the genealogy of Haman (in Sopher. xiii. 6) Bar
Kuza. But it is really Bar Biza, 'son of contempt' - all the names being intended as defamatory of Haman. Similarly, Lightfoot asserts that the designation does not occur in the genealogy of Haman in the Targum Esther. But in the Second Targum Esther (Miqraoth Gedol. Part vi. p. 5 a) the name does occur in the genealogy as 'Bar Buzah.'
27. Yebam. 70 a.
28. Dr. Neubauer (Studia Bibl. p. 225) regards Chuza as an Idumæan name, connected with the Edomite god Kos.
It was on this return-journey to Capernaum, probably not far
from the latter place, that the two blind men had their sight restored.29
It was then, also, that the healing of the demonised dumb took place, which is
recorded in St. Matt. ix. 32-35, and alluded to in St. Mark iii. 22-30. This
narrative must, of course, not be confounded with the somewhat similar event
told in St. Matt. xii. 22-32, and in St. Luke xi. 14-26. The latter occurred at
a much later period in our Lord's life, when, as the whole context shows, the
opposition of the Pharisaic party had assumed much larger proportions, and the
language of Jesus was more fully denunciatory of the character and guilt of His
enemies. That charge of the Pharisees, therefore, that Jesus cast out the
demons through the Prince of the demons,30
as well as His reply to it, will best be considered when it shall appear in its
fullest development. This all the more, that we believe at least the greater
part of our Lord's answer to their blasphemous accusation, as given in St.
to have been spoken at that later period.32
29. St. Matt. ix. 27-31.
30. St. Matt. ix. 34.
31. St. Mark iii. 23-30.
32. I regard St. Mark iii. 23-30 as combining the event in St. Matt. ix. (see St. Mark iii. 23) with what is recorded in St. Matt. xii. and St. Luke xi., and I account for this combination by the circumstance that the latter is not related by St. Mark.
It was on this return-journey to Capernaum from the uttermost
borders of Galilee, when for the first time He was not only followed by His
twelve Apostles, but attended by the loving service of those who owed their all
to His Ministry, that the demonized dumb was restored by the casting our of the
demon. Even these circumstances show that a new stage in the Messianic course
had begun. It is characterised by fuller unfolding of Christ's teaching and
working, and pari passu, by more fully developed opposition of the
Pharisaic party. For the two went together, nor can they be distinguished as
cause or effect. That new stage, as repeatedly noted, had opened on His return
from the 'Unknown Feast' in Jerusalem, whence He seems to have been followed by
the Pharisaic party. We have marked it so early as the call of the four
disciples by the Lake of Galilee. But it first actively appeared at the healing
of the paralytic in Capernaum, when, for the first time, we noticed the
presence and murmuring of the Scribes, and, for the first time also, the
distinct declaration about the forgiveness of sins on the part of Jesus. The
same twofold element appeared in the call of the publican Matthew, and the
cavil of the Pharisees at Christ's subsequent eating and drinking with 'sinners.'
It was in further development of this separation from the old and now hostile
element, that the twelve Apostles were next appointed, and that distinctive
teaching of Jesus addressed to the people in the 'Sermon on the Mount,' which
was alike a vindication and an appeal. On the journey through Galilee, which
now followed, the hostile party does not seem to have actually attended Jesus;
but their growing, and now outspoken opposition is heard in the discourse of
Christ about John the Baptist after the dismissal of his disciples,33
while its influence appears in the unspoken thoughts of Simon the Pharisee.
33. St. Matt. xi. 16-19.
But even before these two events, that had happened which would
induce the Pharisaic party to increased measures against Jesus. It has already
been suggested, that the party, as such, did not attend Jesus on His Galilean
journey. But we are emphatically told, that tidings of the raising of the dead
at Nain had gone forth into Judæa.34
No doubt they reached the leaders at Jerusalem. There seems just sufficient
time between this and the healing of the demonised dumb on the return-journey
to Capernaum, to account for the presence there of those Pharisees,35
who are expressly described by St. Mark36
as 'the Scribes which came down from Jerusalem.'
34. St. Luke vii. 17.
35. St. Matt. ix. 34.
36. St. Mark iii. 32.
Other circumstances, also, are thus explained. Whatever view
the leaders at Jerusalem may have taken of the raising at Nain, it could no
longer be denied that miracles were wrought by Jesus. At least, what to us
seem miracles, yet not to them, since, as we have seen, 'miraculous' cures and
the expelling of demons lay within the sphere of their 'extraordinary ordinary'
- were not miracles in our sense, since they were, or professed to be, done by
their 'own children.' The mere fact, therefore, of such cures, would present no
difficulty to them. To us a single well-ascertained miracle would form
irrefragable evidence of the claims of Christ; to them it would not.
They could believe in the 'miracles,' and yet not in the Christ. To them the
question would not be, as to us, whether they were miracles - but, By what
power, or in what Name, He did these deeds? From our standpoint, their
opposition to the Christ would - in view of His Miracles - seem not only
wicked. but rationally inexplicable. But ours was not their point of view. And
here, again, we perceive that it was enmity of the Person and Teaching
of Jesus which led to the denial of His claims. The inquiry: By what Power
Jesus did these works? they met by the assertion, that it was through that of
Satan, or the Chief of the Demons. They regarded Jesus, as not only
temporarily, but permanently, possessed by a demon, that is, as the constant
vehicle of Satanic influence. And this demon was, according to them, none other
than Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.37
Thus, in their view, it was really Satan who acted in and through Him; and
Jesus, instead of being recognised as the Son of God, was regarded as an
incarnation of Satan; instead of being owned as the Messiah, was denounced and
treated as the representative of the Kingdom of Darkness. All this, because the
Kingdom which He came to open, and which He preached, was precisely the
opposite of what they regarded as the Kingdom of God. Thus it was the essential
contrariety of Rabbinism to the Gospel of the Christ that lay at the foundation
of their conduct towards the Person of Christ. We venture to assert, that this
accounts for the whole after-history up to the Cross.
37. St. Mark iii. 22.
Thus viewed, the history of Pharisaic opposition appears not
only consistent, but is, so to speak, morally accounted for. Their guilt lay in
treating that as Satanic agency which was of the Holy Ghost; and this, because
they were of their father the Devil, and knew not, nor understood, nor yet
loved the Light, their deeds being evil. They were not children of the light,
but of that darkness which comprehended Him not Who was the Light. And now we
can also understand the growth of active opposition to Christ. Once arrived at
the conclusion, that the miracles which Christ did were due to the power of
Satan, and that He was the representative of the Evil One, their course was
rationally and morally chosen. To regard every fresh manifestation of Christ's
Power as only a fuller development of the power of Satan, and to oppose it with
increasing determination and hostility, even to the Cross: such was henceforth
the natural progress of this history. On the other hand, such a course once
fully settled upon, there would, and could, be no further reasoning with, or
against it on the part of Jesus. Henceforth His Discourses and attitude to such
Judaism must be chiefly denunciatory, while still seeking - as, from the inward
necessity of His Nature and the outward necessity of His Mission, He must - to
save the elect remnant from this 'untoward generation,' and to lay broad and
wide the foundations of the future Church. But the old hostile Judaism must
henceforth be left to the judgment of condemnation, except in those tears of
Divine pity which the Jew-King and Jewish Messiah wept over the Jerusalem that
knew not the day of its visitation.
But all this, when the now beginning movement shall have
reached its full proportions.38
For the present, we mark only its first appearance. The charge of Satanic
agency was, indeed, not quite new. It had been suggested, that John the Baptist
had been under demoniacal influence, and this cunning pretext for resistance to
his message had been eminently successful with the people.39
The same charge, only in much fuller form, was not raised against Jesus. As
'the multitude marvelled, saying, it was never so seen in Israel,' the
Pharisees, without denying the facts, had this explanation of them, to be
presently developed to all its terrible consequences: that, both as regarded
the casting out of the demon from the dumb man and all similar works, Jesus
wrought it 'through the Ruler of the Demons.'40
38. St. Matt. xii. 22 &c.; St. Luke xi. 14 &c.
39. St. Matt. xi. 17, 18; St. Luke vii. 31-32.
40. St. Matt. ix. 33, 34.
41. At the same time I have, with not a few authorities, strong doubts whether St. Matt. ix. 34 is not to be regarded as an interpolation (see Westcott and Hort, New Testament). Substantially, the charge was there; but it seems doubtful whether, in so many words, it was made till a later period.
And so the edge of this manifestation of the Christ was blunted
and broken. But their besetment of the Christ did not cease. It is to this that
we attribute the visit of 'the mother and brethren' of Jesus, which is recorded
in the three Synoptic Gospels.42
Even this circumstance shows its decisive importance. It forms a parallel to
the former attempts of the Pharisees to influence the disciples of Jesus,43
and then to stir up the hostility of the disciples of John,44
both of which are recorded by the three Evangelists. It also brought to
light another distinctive characteristic of the Mission of Jesus. We place this
visit of the 'mother and brethren' of Jesus immediately after His return to
Capernaum, and we attribute it to Pharisaic opposition, which either filled
those relatives of Jesus with fear for His safety, or made them sincerely
concerned about His proceedings. Only if it meant some kind of interference
with His Mission, whether prompted by fear or affection, would Jesus have so
disowned their relationship.
42. St. Matt. xii. 46 &c.; St. Mark iii. 31 &c. St. Luke viii. 19 &c.
43. St. Matt. ix. 11.
44. u. s. ver. 14.
But it meant more than this. As always, the positive went side
by side with the negative. Without going so far, as with some of the Fathers,
to see pride or ostentation in this, that the Virgin--Mother summoned Jesus to
her outside the house, since the opposite might as well have been her motive,
we cannot but regard the words of Christ as the sternest prophetic rebuke of
all Mariolatry, prayer for the Virgin's intercession, and, still more, of the
strange doctrines about her freedom from actual and original sin, up to their
prurient sequence in the dogma of the 'Immaculate Conception.'
On the other hand, we also remember the deep reverence among
the Jews for parents, which found even exaggerated expression in the Talmud.45
And we feel that, of all in Israel, He, Who was their King, could not have
spoken nor done what might even seem disrespectful to a mother. There must have
been higher meaning in His words. That meaning would be better understood after
His Resurrection. But even before that it was needful, in presence of
interference or hindrance by earthly relationships, even the nearest and
tenderest, and perhaps all the more in their case, to point to the higher and
stronger spiritual relationship. And beyond this, to still higher truth. For,
had He not entered into earthly kinship solely for the sake of the higher
spiritual relationship which He was about to found; and was it not, then, in
the most literal sense, that not those in nearest earthly relationship, but
they who sat 'about Him, nay, whoever shall do the will of God,' were really in
closest kinship with Him? Thus, it was not that Christ set lightly by His
Mother, but that He confounded not the means with the end, nor yet surrendered the
spirit for the letter of the Law of Love, when, refusing to be arrested or
turned aside from His Mission, even for a moment,47
He elected to do the Will of His Father rather than neglect it by attending to
the wishes of the Virgin-Mother. As Bengel aptly puts it: He contemns
not the Mother, but He places the Father first.48
And this is ever the right relationship in the Kingdom of Heaven!
45. Jer. Peah i. 1.
46. An instance of this has been given in the previous chapter, p. 567, note. Other examples of filial reverence are mentioned, some painfully ludicrous, others
touching, and accompanied by sayings which sometimes rise to the sublime.
47. Bengel remarks on St. Matt. xii. 46: 'Non plane hic congruebat sensus Mariæ cum sensu Filii.'
48. 'Non spernit Matrem, sed anteponit Patrem.'
21 | Table
of Contents | Chapter