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ing to the heathen. The scene which thus foreshadowed the future was naturally placed at the beginning of the career of Jesus. The simple and trustworthy tradition which is still preserved by Matthew and Mark of the reception given to Jesus by his former townsmen lent itself admirably to the purpose of Luke, and accordingly he adopted it with such additions and modifications as his special object suggested.
Let us now turn to the genuine historical account, just alluded to, of the appearance of Jesus in his native place. We gain some such idea of what took place as follows:
When he had made a deep impression at Capernaum and elsewhere, and had labored for some time, especially in the land of Gennesareth, Jesus determined to visit Nazareth and preach the kingdom of God there also. We can understand why he long deferred his intention, and shrank from carrying it out even now. He did not disguise the fact that bis native place promised him but small success; and there, of all places, where his own relatives and fellow-townsmen were concerned, failure would be most painful. But these forebodings must not hold him back. Now that he had established his fame as a prophet or teacher of the people elsewhere, he must make the attempt. He could no longer hold himself guiltless, if the men of his native city did not hear the glad tidings of the kingdom of God.
So he extended one of his journeys with the Twelve beyond the usual limits. Ile left the shores of the lake at Magdala, turned inland by Beth-Arbeel and the Horns of Chattin, passed Tabor on his left hand, and so reached the little city in which he had passed his childhood, bis youth, and indeed all his life till within the last few months. What conflicting emotions came over him when he saw once more the familiar scenes of his work and play, his contemplation, and his prayer! What a change had taken place in this short time, not in the place or the people, indeed, but in himself! How would he fare amidst them now?
Of course he went to his mother's house, and probably stayed there several days. He had never been there since he began his work ; and now, alas! he found not what he had longed for so fervently. He found no heart open to receive bis gospel. The very fact that it was his gospel was an insuperable obstacle to it. Not that his mother, his brothers and sisters, married or single, and his other relatives who
1 See the plan in Map V.
lived at Nazareth ever thought of withdrawing their affection and esteem from him ; but they expressed their surprise at his assuming the prophetic function, they did not conceal their disapproval of his actions, they showed no sympathy when he spoke of his mission; in short, they gave him a thousand proofs that they did not understand him.
They were far too much accustomed to him, had too often seen him go
in and out, seen him work and rest, eat and drink, to be able to look on him as a prophet. The same blindness which had prevented them from expecting any thing from him before, prevented their believing in him now. Perhaps, too, some of them, especially so strict a Jew as James for instance, could hardly brook his free opinions and mode of life. So he met with no appreciation, no enthusiasm, no faith ; and such faint hopes as he had ever entertained were dashed to the ground.
He felt that this grievous disappointment at home was but a sample of what he might expect from his townspeople in general. When the Sabbath broke, he went to the synagogue
- with what feelings we may partly guess. For twenty, perhaps thirty, years in succession he had gone there diligently, week by week, to receive instruction in the Scripture; and now he came with the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets in his heart and upon his lips. Must it, could it, be in vain ? He preached with all his constraining beauty and power, and all who heard were filled with amazement when he ceased. “How comes he,” said they, “by all this wisdom and power? Is he not Joseph the carpenter's son, whose mother Mary is still living, and whose brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas are settled here in the town, and all his sisters too? Where should he get this wisdom from?” And thereupon one was vexed as if he had been injured, and another was full of contempt. But Jesus was prepared for his reception, and simply said, “ A prophet is honored everywhere except in his native city, and by his own relatives, and in his own home!” He could do nothing; or, as the Evangelists express it, intending the words to be taken literally: “ He healed but very few sick people there. He could not do more, because of their unbelief. Then he went and preached in the surrounding places.” The Nazarenes did but furnish an example of the common want of insight which never can pierce below the surface of things. They knew the prophet's origin, and of course that origin failed to explain how there could be any thing remarkable in him; and their superficial prejudices
prevented them from believing in any thing they could not account for. As for originality and the summons from on high, they had no conception of it, - at least not in the case of one whom they had known as a little child, whom they had seen as he grew up learning his lessons or playing, and then taking to his trade and executing orders.
How could he be a prophet, and the herald of the kingdom of God? No, no! they knew who he was and were not to be imposed upon. And to this day the ordinary run of mankind judge by the same kind of purely accidental circumstance. No height of moral grandeur will convince them that those with whom they are familiar are any thing but very ordinary sort of people.
Jesus, as we have seen, complained not only of his fellowtownsmen, but also of the nembers of his own family. Did a definite breach take place before he left Nazareth? All we know is that the natural affection, the ties of kindred, remained unbroken ; but his relatives' want of sympathy withi him in his highest and holiest life, their want of faith in his mission and his preaching, caused a sense of alienation to spring up, and made him feel that a chasm yawned between himself and them. Sufficient evidence of this appears soon afterwards. Jesus had returned to Capernaum and was again surrounded by a crowd of admiring disciples and dogged by suspicious observers. He was speaking in his own house, and was surrounded by so many hearers that it was impossible for any one outside to approach him, when he was disturbed by a flutter among his hearers, many of whom looked towards the door. Then some one said, “ Master ! your mother and your brothers are there outside, and wish to speak to you.” What could have made them come? It can have been nothing but anxious affection for the son or brother they sought. In those days such an expedition - one long, or two short, days' journey was not undertaken without some weighty reason. Mark declares that they had heard of Jesus being so constantly engaged in teaching or in conversation with those who came to him that he did not even al.. low himself time for meals ; and says that upon this they set out to get hold of him and bring him back to Nazareth, hoping that in the family circle, under the old roof, he might quiet down a little and come to himself; for they said, “ He is beside himself!” Did their misunderstanding of him really go to far? Matthew does not mention this; and we are left in
doubt whether it was he who omitted it as too shocking to record, or Mark who inserted it. In the latter case it may have been suggested by an accusation afterwards urged against Paul. At any rate, Jesus himself bears unanswerable testimony to the fact that however praiseworthy and affectionate their motive may have seemed at first sight it was not the true motive of interest in his work; and they came not to help but to thwart him. When he heard that they were there, and that seeing no chance of gaining access to him they were anxious that he should come out to them, he refused to comply. Nay, his answer gave an undisguised expression to the feeling of deep sadness and the sense of pain which the words “ your mother and your brothers" had caused him. " Who are my mother and brothers?” he cried. And then, looking round with deep affection and stretching out his hand over the disciples that sat about him, he added, “ These are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
The first two Gospels place this occurrence earlier than the visit to Nazareth and the preaching there; but we have followed the reverse order, for such conduct on the part of Jesus towards the members of his family would be inexplicable had he not just before been in communication with them, and experienced their inability to comprehend his work and their desire to hinder it. And again, if he visited his native place with even a faint hope of success, it must almost certainly have been before this breach with his own relatives. The order of the two events, however, is of little consequence. They are certainly both of them true; and the Master's two sayings as to the fate of a prophet in his native place, and as to his spiritual kin, are unquestionably genuine. The latter, with its uncompromising exposure of the deficiencies of those he loved so dearly, must have given him intense pain when he uttered it. Doubtiess he thanked God that friends who had devoted their lives without reserve to the kingdom of God had filled the places near him which his mother and his brothers had left empty, and had given him that support and help which he had songht at home in vain; but, for all that, it must have been unspeakably distressing to him to push his dearest relatives still further away from him. But who shall say with what tears and entreaties they had already urged him to forsake his work, and warned him against its continuance? He had resisted them. He had silenced the
1 2 Corinthians v. 13; compare Mark iij. 22, 30.
voice of natural affection by the voice of duty, by the voice of God; and, though the love of his mother and his brothers was at stake, he could not be shaken.
The faith of so many disciples might soothe, but could not beal, the wound. And especially his mother's want of that sympathy which would have been more precious from her than from any other creature must have given him the deepest pain. . . . Once, when he had been uttering words to the people that glowed with sacred power, a woman in the crowd. dloubtless herself a mother, could contain her emotion no longer, and cried aloud, “ Blessed is the body that bore you and the breast that gave you suck!” There was deep and natural feeling in the woman's cry; but Jesus wished for no panegyric, and at once recalled her attention from himself to her own wants and her own calling. At the same time, we can see that the exclamation bad touched a tender string in his heart. He knew too well that kinship of spirit is not always fostered by kinship of flesh. " Not so !” he answered ; “but blessed are they who receive the word of God and do it!”
Such was the reception from his relatives and his former fellow-townsmen which Jesus, with his fine perceptions and deep need of sympathy, had to encounter.
THE RECEPTION OF JESUS BY THE PHARISEES.
LUKE XIV. 1, 7-15, XV. 1, 2, 11-32, XVIII. 9–14, VII. 31-35.2
WE have already seen Jesus on several occasions in com
, pleasant impression of their intercourse with each other. Το avoid misconception, therefore, we will enter upon a more special examination of the treatment Jesus experienced from the Pharisees. The attitude they assumed to him was of extreme importance; for not only had they a great number of avowed supporters, but they may be regarded as the acknowledged leaders of the religious life of the day.
But it is very difficult to arrive at certainty on this subject, for our Evan. 1 Luke xi. 27, 28.
2 Matthew xi. 16-19. 11