Mat_12:22 to Mat_13:53; Mar_3:30 to Mar_4:34; Luk_8:1 to Luk_13:9
After this our Lord made another circuit through the towns and villages of Galilee, attended by the twelve apostles, and by other disciples.
It seems uncertain, till we again find Him by the shores of the Sea of Galilee, whether the incidents that follow occurred in the course of this journey, or after the return to Capernaum. We must confess to some indecision on this point; but, upon the whole, incline to the former opinion. It is not, however, a matter of much consequence, except in so far as one feels a desire to know, as nearly as possible, where Jesus was when certain acts were performed, and certain discourses delivered.
On one occasion, a very strong impression was produced upon the people, by our Lord casting out a devil from a man who had become, under this influence, not only insane, but blind and dumb. Here were three cures simultaneously effected; and when the people beheld the lunatic sensible and collected, when they heard the dumb speak, and perceived that the blind saw, they exclaimed in amazed reverence, “Is not this the Son of David?”—that is, the Messiah, who was often mentioned by that title. The Pharisees, however, foiled as they had hitherto been in their arguments with Him, and in their attempts to ensnare Him, took this occasion to launch their most venomous shaft against Him. They insinuated that such miracles were performed only through power acquired by some unlawful compact with “Beelzebub, the prince of devils,” and that it was by the secret invocation of this powerful name that the inferior demons yielded Him obedience. Considering the state of Jewish opinion in regard to the world of spirits, and the facility with which, in consequence, such a notion might gain access to their minds, a more dangerous and insidious imputation could not have been put forth. Jesus knew this; and nothing ever said against Him, drew down from Him a protest and a denunciation so warm and indignant as this. He first showed the absurdity of the charge. The powers of darkness were known to be inimical to man; and yet they were thus made out to be acting against the interests of their own dominion by doing good to him. If, also, evil spirits were only cast out by the power of the devil, by whose power did they profess to cast them out?—for, as should be known, these Pharisees made great pretensions to be themselves exorcists of evil spirits. Then, in a tone of solemn severity, He declared that it was “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost”—a sin less pardonable than any other, to ascribe to infernal power works which bore upon them the manifest impress of the Divine goodness.
Still they did not desist from this charge; but having once made it, strove to keep it in circulation, and render it effectual. They even began to tamper with the near relations of Jesus, and succeeded for the moment in making them believe that He was not in his right mind, and that it was a duty which they owed to themselves and to society to put Him under restraint. They accordingly made an attempt to secure his person, and it perplexes one to find the mother of Jesus present on the occasion. It is, however, difficult to suppose that she had any part in the design. It is probable that she was ignorant of it, but had been prevailed upon, on some pretence or other, to join the party of relations, who might suppose the apparent sanction of her presence desirable; or that her being with them would facilitate their object in getting Jesus apart—for to seize Him by force from among his followers and auditors was more than they could have dared. It is even possible that, knowing the design, she had gone on purpose to frustrate it.
One day our Lord had, in answer to the demand for a sign or proof to the Messiahship from the Pharisees, refused to give any other sign but that of the prophet Jonas, obscurely shadowing forth his future resurrection—and that, less for the purpose of being then understood, than of having his words remembered with conviction hereafter by his disciples. Continuing his discourse, one woman present was so impressed by his words, that she cried out, “Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked!” “Yea, rather,’’ said He, “blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” One might almost think that this woman was conscious that the mother of Jesus was there, or close at hand; for presently it was known that she had come with other members of the family, seeking access to Him. He was then in a house, and the press of the crowd in the court prevented them from approaching Him. The intimation that they were present soon, however, passed through the throng, and one told Jesus that his mother and brethren were without, desiring to see Him. It is not clear whether this was a message, or the information of a bystander; but it is likely to have been the former, as they might calculate that He would be likely to come out to his mother. But He did not, being well aware of the design entertained against Him, and which must have grieved Him sorely. On the contrary, He took occasion to declare most emphatically the superior obligations of spiritual ties. “Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?” And stretching forth his hand to the seeking souls around Him, and more especially to his disciples, He claimed them for his spiritual kindred, and declared that their affinity to Him was nearer than any which ties of blood could create. “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother!”
It was on this occasion that our Lord received an invitation to dinner or supper from a Pharisee, who had not evinced much open opposition to Him, or had concealed it under the mark of courtesy. He went; and the master of the house was shocked to observe, that He had “not washed” before sitting down to table. This does not prove that He had not washed at all, but it proves that He had not done so after the manner of the ceremonious washings, by which the Pharisees distinguished themselves from “the men of earth,” as they insolently designated the common people, who only washed when cleanliness required. This might not have been expected from Jesus as “a man of the earth,” but they did expect it from Him as a religious teacher, for in their religion, this was a very essential article. Our Lord perceiving the thoughts of his entertainer, was grieved once more at the hollowness of the generation in which He appeared. He spoke plainly, as was his wont, denouncing, in most stern and even vehement language, this miserable affectation of external purity, where the inside was so foul and unclean. Who does not sympathize in our Lord’s indignation, at the shams and hypocrisies of this day? Who does not vehemently stamp with his foot, and concur in the “Woe, woe!” which our Lord pronounced upon them? Yet, let not the trumpet of our indignation be blown too loudly. There may be things in this city, things in this street, things in this house, things in this bosom, to prevent us from crying out quite loudly, “Thank God, we are not like these Pharisees.”
After this, we have an account of various discourses of our Lord; many of them taking the shape of Parables, a form of discourse admirably suited to an eastern people especially, but in fact well adapted to impress the inculcated truths upon all minds. This mode of instruction was also well adapted to the peculiar position in which our Lord stood, and which often required Him to speak with veiled meanings, to appear hereafter. He had to avoid such plainness of intimation, as might, on the one hand, hasten the death he came to die, before the foundations of his church were sufficiently consolidated; or as might, on the other, excite the people to demand of Him the instant establishment of that kingdom of violence which they desired. Hence we find that while all these parables offer on the surface, a plain and impressive moral, they also bear a more or less covert relation to the character and growth of the religion he came to establish.