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The Jews not yet understanding him, he told them plainly that his divine doctrine was the spiritual food he meant; and that by faith in him as THE SON OF GOD, they should have eternal life, and be raised at the last day, and that he came down from heaven to teach them this doctrine, ver. 34-40.
They now murmured, objecting his earthly parentage," Is not this JESUS the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how then doth he say, I came down from heaven ?” JESUS answered, that he was that divine teacher foretold by the prophets," They shall all be taught of GOD," Isa. liv. 13, Jer. xxxi. 33, 34, that he was his FATHER'S representative, to reveal his will to mankind, ver. 41-50.
He then informed them that he was the bread of life, not only on account of his doctrine, which would give eternal life to believers, but also because he would give his flesh, or his life, to procure the life of the world, verse 51.
This gave them greater offence. How can this man give us his flesh to eat? And when JESUS continued to explain himself in the same figurative style, " It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing, the sayings which I speak unto you they are spirit and life," many of his disciples seceded, and walked no more with him, ver. 53–66.
Then said JESUS to the twelve, Will ye also withdraw? Peter saith unto him, in their name, "Lord, to whom shall we secede? thou hast the sayings of eternal life. And we believe, and know, that thou art THe Christ, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD," ver. 66-69.
To repress, however, their confidence in the strength of their faith, and attachment to him, he remarked, " Have not I chosen you twelve? and yet one of you is a devil." He meant Judas Iscariot, who was to betray him, being one of the twelve, ver. 70, 71.
THE THIRD PASSOVER *.
JESUS did not attend this passover at Jerusalem, because the Jewish rulers sought to kill him, but remained in Galilee, John vii. 1. His fame, however, was now so great, that they thought it necessary, if possible, to put a stop to it. They sent
The year assigned to this passover, A.D. 30, is confirmed by the sign of the prophet Jonah, given in the course of it, respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, 40 years after, A.D. 70. Matt. xvi. 4.
therefore a party of Scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem to to watch him, who first attacked him on the ground of traditions, which they strictly observed themselves, and objected that he encouraged the breach of them in his disciples, in order to diminish his popularity, Matt. xv. 1, Mark vii. 1.
"Why do thy disciples transgress the traditions of the elders, for they wash not their hands before meals ?" Matt. xv. 2, Mark vii. 2.
1. But JESUS retorted, "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of GOD by your tradition ?" And he instanced a case in point: The fifth commandment required them to honour, and, if necessary, support their parents, under pain of death to those undutiful children, who cursed them, or refused to do so, Exod. xx. 12, xxi. 17, Deut. v. 16, Levit. xx. 9. But their tradition encouraged vows, or consecration of their substance to religious uses, which they called corban," a gift," or oblation, vowed to the treasury of the temple. And this vow, of corban, even though it never was executed, was considered as sufficient to supersede the law of honouring their parents with any part of their substance, Matt. xv. 4-6, Mark vii. 10-14.
This was the doctrine of the sect called Rabbanites, who held oral tradition, and supposed that GOD dictated many things by word of mouth to Moses on Mount Sinai, which were propagated by tradition of the elders, and long after were put in writing, lest they should be forgot. Hence those maxims of their school," the words of the scribes are lovelier than the words of the law, the words of the elders are weightier than the words of the prophets *."
But there was a different sect of the scribes, called Karaites, or" Scripturians," who rejected traditions, and adhered strictly to the written law. They also rejected the cabalistical or allegorical interpretations of Scripture, and contended for the literal sense. And if the literal was inadmissible, they endeavoured to discover the figurative meaning, by careful comparison of Scripture with itself in parallel places. See an account of their sound principles, Chandler's Vindication of his Defence of Christianity, p. 351. To such, our LORD's doctrine must have been acceptable; and such, we may presume, was that intelligent
The Rabbanites and the Romish doctors were remarkably alike, both "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men;" as OUR SAVIOUR reproached the former, Matt.
scribe, who gave credit to JESUS, and was pronounced by Him, "not to be far from the kingdom of GOD," Mark xii. 28-34.
2. OUR LORD next reproached them for their hypocrisy ; and applied to them Isaiah's censure, "This people draw nigh unto me with their mouth, and honour me with their lips; but their heart is far from me," (Isai. xxix. 13,) Matt. xv. 7, 8, Mark vii. 6.
3. He then shewed the multitude, that the heart was the chief seat of impurity, Matt. xv. 11-20, Mark vii. 15-23.
4. He reproached the Pharisees as "blind leaders of the blind," who would be involved in the same common destruction with their deluded followers, " both shall fall into the ditch :" for "every plantation, or doctrine, which MY HEAVENLY FATHER hath not planted, shall be rooted out," Matt. xv. 13, 14.
Thus did the insidious attack of the Scribes and Pharisees only turn to their own confusion and disgrace. And "they were offended," not less at the superiority of his arguments, which silenced them, than at the diminution of their reputation with the multitude, as "blind guides," who cavilled indeed at trifles, and were zealous for external purity; while, by their captious questions and calumnies, they were plotting against his reputation and his life! In order, therefore, to get rid of such evil-minded visitants, he retired to the regions between Tyre and Sidon, to conceal himself in a heathen country, "not wishing to be known," until their departure, Matt. xv. 12—21, Mark vii. 24.
THE SYROPHENICIAN WOMAN.
But here he could not conceal himself, though he declined preaching in public, or working miracles, beyond the limits of his mission, as SHILOH, or the peculiar APOSTLE OF THE HEBREWS.
An opportunity, however, immediately offered, of contrasting the exalted faith of a heathen, with the obstinate unbelief of his own household. A Syrophenician woman knew him, who had probably heard of the two signal miracles wrought at Cana, in her neighbourhood, particularly the latter, of healing the nobleman's son at Capernaum; and was therefore persuaded that JESUS was the promised MESSIAH, or CHRIST, the Son of David, expected by the Jews, Samaritans, and the neighbouring Gentiles.
She addressed him, therefore, as a believer: "Pity me, LORD, thou Son of David, my daughter is grievously possessed with a demon!" But our Lord, wishing to shew the firmness of her faith, under repeated denials, " answered her not a word." Then she followed, and besought his disciples; and even they, to get rid of her importunity, interceded for her: "Dismiss her, or grant her request, for she crieth after us." But he refused, << I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." My mission is not to the Gentiles. Still the woman persevered with patience, and "came, and threw herself at his feet, and besought him, LORD, help me!" But he refused her again, in stronger terms, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to dogs;" it is not right to waste on the unworthy heathens, those miracles appropriated to the Jews. Not even repulsed by this, she calmly and humbly replied, "Truth, LORD, yet the dogs eat of the children's crumbs that fall from their master's table." It is true, we heathens are no better than dogs in comparison of thy children, the Jews; still we are thy servants, and should be considered as an inferior part of thy household; and as such, entitled to a pittance of thy bounty to them the fragments will suffice for us. Perhaps she might have heard also of" the table which his bounty had spread for the five thousand in the wilderness," and alluded thereto in her pointed reply. Admiring her ingenious answer, and seemingly vanquished by her humble and patient importunity, our LORD commended her faith, and instantly granted her petition: "O woman, great is thy faith! be it unto thee even as thou willest! And her daughter was cured from that hour. For when the woman returned, she found the demon expelled, and her daughter laid on the bed," quiet and composed, and in her right mind, Matt. xv. 21-28, Mark vii. 24―30.
THE FOUR THOUSAND FED.
Departing from thence, JESUS visited the region of Decapolis, on the eastern side of the lake of Galilee, formerly the settlement of the half tribe of Manasseh, a country which abounded in Gentiles. There he also wrought several signal miracles; and among others already noticed, that of supplying limbs to the "maimed," by a new creation; which wrought the conversion of many, who glorified the God of Israel. Mark ix. 43, Matt. xv. 31. And here OUR LORD, moved with tender
compassion also for this mixed multitude of Jews and Heathens, fed four thousand men, beside women and children, with seven loaves of bread, and a few small fishes, which multiplied, as before, under his creating hands; and left seven baskets full of the fragments that remained after they were all filled, Matt. xv. 29-38, Mark vii. 31-37, viii. 1-9.
Immediately after this signal miracle, he dismissed the multitude, not wishing to attract public notice, and went by sea, southwards, to Magdala, on the confines of Dalmanutha; where he had cured Mary Magdalene, who had been possessed with seven demons, Matt. xv. 39; Mark viii. 10; Luke viii. 2; Mark xvi. 9.
Here he was again assailed by those troublesome and malignant visitors, the Pharisees, from Jerusalem, reinforced by the Sadducees, who, though at variance, yet cordially conspired to compass his destruction. And tempting him, or disbelieving his power to give it, they required of him the sign from heaven of the prophet Daniel, to prove his Messiahship; which he refused those hypocrites, as observed before, and gave them, for the last time, the sign of the prophet Jonah. Then he left them, and crossed the lake, and retired northwards into Philip the Tetrarch's territories, and went to Cesarea Philippi, near the springs of the Jordan, formerly called Leshem, Josh. xix. 47, and Laish, Judges xviii. 27, which Philip had rebuilt magnificently, and made it his residence, Matt. xvi. 1-13; Mark viii. 11-27.
While they were crossing the lake in their way thither, Jesus warned his disciples to beware of the leaven, or doctrine of the Pharisees or Sadducees; as he explained it; after rebuking them for their slowness of apprehension in understanding it literally, as if he could want to buy bread, after the two stupendous miracles of the loaves and fishes.
When they had reached the villages of Cesarea Philippi, He called on his disciples for an explicit profession of their faith, which they gave him, by their leader, Peter, "Thou art THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD," Matt. xvi. 5-16; Mark viii. 13—21.