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reached the ears of the mother and brothers of Jesus, who, it is reasonable to believe, had like him left Nazareth, and taken up their abode in Capernaum. They anxiously hastened to him; for it was said, "He is beside himself." Finding the crowd so great, that they could not gain entrance, they sent in word that they desired to speak with him; hoping in this way to release him from a situation, apparently uncomfortable and perhaps perilous. As the word was passed in through the crowd, a woman in the company, hearing his mother named,* cried out, "Blessed is the womb that bare thee! Happy is the mother of such a son! It was a sudden expression of a natural feeling. But Jesus, who did not wish to have the minds of his hearers diverted from the great subjects on which he was speaking, replied, "Yea, rather blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it!" Then, stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he added, "Behold, my mother and my brothers! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother and sister and mother." When this was repeated to his waiting relatives, it must have relieved them from all apprehension. It possibly conveyed to their minds something of a reproof for having allowed themselves to be uneasy about him, and to
* [A friend will perceive his own suggestion here.]
interrupt him in his duties, when they well knew that it was his meat to do his Father's will.
The same day he went out to the side of the lake, accompanied still by a great throng of people. That he might the more advantageously address them, he went on board one of the vessels which lay there, and spoke to them from thence. His discourse at this time was wholly made up of parables; and, if we are right in the arrangement which we have given to the history, it is a curious question, why he commenced this mode of preaching at so late a period of his ministry, and from this time used it so much. For not only the place here assigned to these parables indicates that they were probably the first which he delivered; but the language of the disciples who heard them, confirms the supposition. They asked him, "Why speakest thou to them in parables?" as if it were a new thing, a mode of teaching to which they were not accustomed. Does it not seem, as if he had become satisfied that the plain, proverbial, preceptive method of instruction hitherto adopted, was ineffectual to move and persuade the gross minds of the people? They did not, they would not, understand him. They closed their minds against his true meaning, and avoided the spiritual inferences and applications
Matt. xiii. 1.
Mark iv. 1.
Luke viii. 4.
which he intended they should make. It was in vain to deal plainly with men pertinaciously resolved against every view, but that sensual one of temporal power which engrossed their whole souls. He would therefore change his mode of address. He would speak to the ears they had closed in a corresponding style; he would employ a hidden sense, which would be fully intelligible only to those who came to him with fair and teachable dispositions. To his disciples, therefore, he explained his parables, because they were willing and desirous to learn; to the multitude who would not learn, who cared for nothing but the outward kingdom, he left them unexplained. This is indeed the reason for using parables, which he himself assigned in his reply to the disciples.
On the present occasion he delivered the fine and instructive parable of the Sower; a very suitable one to form the beginning of this mode of teaching; for it described, in a striking manner, the different characters of those by whom his doctrine had been hitherto heard, and the various effects it had had on various dispositions. To many he had preached in vain, for their minds were preoccupied with prejudices, pleasures, or cares. Some had been affected for a time, but had taken offence and deserted him. Some had been de coyed away by a too great love of the world, and some by fear of unpopularity and persecution.
Some had remained faithful and steadfast. these characters are exhibited in the parable; and we may suppose, that it was this observation of the manner in which his own preaching had been received, that led him to choose for his first lesson on changing his mode of instruction, a subject so striking in itself, and so applicable as well as useful to all times and communities.
He then recited several parables illustrative of the character and progress of his kingdom. The first was that of the tares of the field, which he afterward expounded in private to his disciples. The others related to the growth and extension of his doctrine, and strikingly manifest the confidence which he felt in its final prevalence and triumph. After returning home, he added several others for the instruction of his immediate followers, designed to express the value of the object to which they had devoted themselves, and to teach the certainty of a future retribution.
After this, Jesus left Capernaum, and made another visit to his own town of Nazareth. It was about five months since he had there been assaulted and expelled by the citizens. It was now to be seen whether the increase of his reputation through the land, might not have prepared their minds to receive him more favorably. But their prejudices had not been removed. They could not forget that he was one of themselves, and they
would not believe that their humble townsman "Is not this the carpenter?
could be a prophet. said they, 66 are not his brothers and sisters with us?" A few only brought their sick to him; and thus, because of their obstinate unbelief, at which he is said to have wondered, he could do but few miracles there. Thus he proved the truth of his own saying, A prophet is every where honored, except in his own country.
Matt. xiii. 53.
Mark vi. i.