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THE FEAST OF PENTECOST-THE SUMMER SPENT IN GALILEE-THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES- -CONVERSATION WITH THE JEWS AT JERUSALEM.
THE Pentecost was a festival in commemoration of the giving of the law from Mount Sinai. This event took place fifty days after the departure of the Israelites from Egypt; consequently the Pentecost occurred fifty days after the Passover, and because it thus took place at the interval of seven weeks, it was called the feast of weeks. It was celebrated by the offering of the first fruits of the wheat-harvest, which at that time was gathered in, and by various additional sacrifices at the Temple. It was one of the three great occasions on which all the males of the land were required to present themselves in religious solemnity before the Lord. Our Saviour, therefore, whose rule it was to fulfil all righteousness, again went up to Jerusalem.
This visit to the city was signalized by the cure of an 66 'impotent man, as he is styled in our translation;-one who had been disabled by disease for thirty-eight years. Jesus found him lying with a multitude of blind, lame and crippled
persons near a pool called Bethesda, whose waters at certain seasons were thought to possess a miraculous power of healing. As he had no friend to lift him into the water, Jesus took pity on him and healed him by his word.
This happened on the Sabbath-day. When the strict and superstitious Jews saw the poor man walking away with his couch on his shoulders, they cried out against him for breaking the Sabbath. He defended himself by answering, that the person who healed him had said to him, "Take up thy bed and walk." Their displeasure was thus turned against Jesus, and they persecuted him for this profanation of the holy day. This gave rise to one of those striking conversations recorded by John, in which our Lord vindicated himself against the charge of irreligion and blasphemy, asserted his authority and dignity as the Son of God, warned his countrymen against the rejection of his claims, and reminded them of three proofs which they possessed that he came from God;—namely, the testimony of John the Baptist, the miraculous works he performed, and the voice from heaven which was heard at his baptism. It was in this discourse that occurred that solemn and sublime passage respecting a future state of retribution, of which Paley has said,* Had Jesus Christ delivered no other de
* Moral Philosophy, Book v. eh. ix.
claration, he had pronounced a message of inestimable importance, and well worthy of that splendid apparatus of prophecy and miracles with which his mission was introduced and attested.' This declaration was, "The hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of condemnation."
But it was in vain that he addressed his holy doctrine and earnest warnings to the prejudiced minds of his countrymen. They would not hear him. They persecuted and sought to kill him. And therefore, says the Evangelist, he did not continue in Judea, but retired again to Galilee.
It was now the opening of the summer. The feast of Pentecost occurred in May, and we hear nothing more of him until the feast of Tabernacles in September. As the summer in that climate is intensely hot and enervating, and consequently unfavorable to exertion, it seems probable that he spent it in comparative retirement. No record of any of his acts during this time has come down to us. We are left to fancy him passing his time in holy contemplation and devotion, occupied in teaching and blessing the circle with which he was immediately connected, and preparing him
John vii. 1.
self for the severe trials and toils of the more active months which were to follow.
The feast of Tabernacles, the third of the three great solemnities at which the men were obliged to go up to the Temple, was instituted in commemoration of the sojourn of the Israelites in the wilderness, where for so many years they dwelt in tents or tabernacles. It occurred in the beginning of autumn, and lasted seven days, or, as some think, eight; the first and last being the most solemn. The manner of its celebration was peculiar. During its whole continuance, the people resided in tents, or arbors, constructed of the boughs of trees, and placed in the streets, in the outer court of the Temple, and on the tops of the houses. On the first day, they gathered branches of the finest trees, willow and palmtrees especially, and went with them in procession to the temple, and encompassed the altar of burntofferings, singing certain songs, and crying “ Hosanna! Hence these branches were called Hosanna; and the last day was called the Great Hosanna, because on that day this ceremony was performed seven times. They also brought as offerings to the temple the first fruits of their second harvest, and consecrated the occasion by a great variety of sacrifices, as well as by dancing, music, and illuminations. In fact, this feast may be considered as the great Thanksgiving of the
Jewish people. It was kept by joyous religious feasting, like the autumnal festival of New England, and, like that, occurred just when the fruits of the earth had been gathered in.
On the approach of this feast, when all men were preparing to go to Jerusalem, the brothers of Jesus urged him to accompany them. They had no belief in his Messiahship, and they pretended to accuse him of hiding himself from observation, because he had passed the summer quietly in Galilee. 'For," said they, no man doeth any thing in secret, and yet seeketh himself to be known openly. If thou do these things, show thyself to the world." But he replied to them, that his time was not yet come; they could go at any time; he was not yet ready. They accordingly departed without him; and he afterwards followed them, privately, and apparently alone. He knew the jealousies and enmities which had already been excited, and he thought it prudent to avoid the occasions of offence which might arise from his travelling through the land when the ways were thronged with people. We shall have occasion to notice many remarkable instances of this reserve.
When the people were collected at the feast, there was immediately great inquiry made for him.