Chapter 20 - Events Leading up to the Capernaum Crisis

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THE story of the cure of Amos, the Kheresa lunatic, had already reached Bethsaida and Capernaum, so that a great crowd was waiting for Jesus when his boat landed that Tuesday forenoon. As Jesus spoke with those who had assembled to greet him, Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, made his way through the crowd and falling down at his feet, took him by the hand saying:

  • "Master, my little daughter, an only child, lies in my home at the point of death. I pray that you will come and heal her."

When Jesus heard the request of this father, he said:

  • "I will go with you."

Shortly before they reached the ruler's house, as they hastened through a narrow street and as the throng jostled him, Jesus suddenly stopped, exclaiming:

  • "Someone touched me."

And when those who were near him denied that they had touched him, Peter spoke up:

  • "Master, you can see that this crowd presses you, threatening to crush us, and yet you say `someone has touched me.' What do you mean?"

Then Jesus said:

  • "I asked who touched me for I perceived that living energy had gone forth from me."

As Jesus looked about him, his eyes fell upon a near-by woman, who coming forward, knelt at his feet and said:

  • "For years I have been afflicted with a scourging hemorrhage. I have suffered many things from many physicians. I have spent all my substance, but none could cure me. Then I heard of you, and I thought if I may but touch the hem of his garment, I shall certainly be made whole. So I pressed forward with the crowd as it moved along, until standing near you, Master, I touched the border of your garment, and I was made whole. I know that I have been healed of my affliction."

When Jesus heard this, he took the woman by the hand, and lifting her up, said:

  • "Daughter, your faith has made you whole, go in peace."

At Jairus’s House

Jairus was, of course, terribly impatient of this delay in reaching his home. So they now hastened on at quickened pace. Even before they entered the ruler's yard, one of his servants came out, saying:

  • "Trouble not the Master, your daughter is dead."

But Jesus seemed not to heed the servant's words, taking with him Peter, James, and John; he turned and said to the grief-stricken father:

  • "Fear not, only believe."

Already were the relatives engaged in weeping and wailing. When he had put all the mourners out of the room, he went in with the father and mother and his three apostles. He had told the mourners that the damsel was not dead, but they laughed him to scorn.

Jesus now turned to the mother, saying:

  • "Your daughter is not dead, she is only asleep."

When the house had quieted down, Jesus, going up to where the child lay, took her by the hand and said:

  • "Daughter, I say to you, awake and arise!"

When the girl heard these words, she immediately rose up and walked across the room. And presently, after she had recovered from her daze, Jesus directed that they should give her something to eat, for she had been a long time without food.

Since there was much agitation in Capernaum against Jesus, he called the family together and explained that the maiden had been in a state of coma following a long fever, and that he had merely aroused her, that he had not raised her from the dead. He likewise explained all this to his apostles, but it was futile. They all believed he had raised the little girl from the dead. They were miracle-minded and lost no opportunity to ascribe another wonder to Jesus.

When he came out of Jairus's house, two blind men led by a dumb boy followed him and cried out for healing. About this time Jesus' reputation as a healer was at its very height. Everywhere he went the sick and the afflicted were waiting for him. The Master now looked much worn, and all of his friends were becoming concerned lest he continue his work of teaching and healing to the point of actual collapse.

Feeding the Five Thousand

The Master had so little rest over the Sabbath that on Sunday morning, March 27, he sought to get away from the people. Some of the evangelists were left to talk to the multitude while Jesus and the twelve planned to escape, unnoticed, to the opposite shore of the lake, to a beautiful park south of Bethsaida-Julias.

But the people would not have it so. They saw the direction taken by Jesus' boat, and hiring every craft available, they started out in pursuit. Those who could not obtain boats fared forth on foot to walk around the upper end of the lake.

By late afternoon more than a thousand persons had located the Master in one of the parks, and he spoke to them briefly, being followed by Peter. Many of these people had brought food with them, and after eating the evening meal, they gathered about in small groups while Jesus' apostles and disciples taught them.

Monday afternoon the multitude had increased to more than three thousand. And still -- way into the evening -- the people continued to flock in, bringing all manner of sick folks with them. By Wednesday noon about five thousand men, women, and children were assembled here in this park to the south of Bethsaida-Julias.

Philip had provided a three days' supply of food for Jesus and the twelve, which was in the custody of John Mark. By afternoon of this, the third day for almost half of this multitude, the food the people had brought with them was nearly exhausted. But the people, even though they were hungry, would not go away. It was being quietly whispered about that Jesus, desiring to avoid trouble with both Herod and the Jerusalem leaders, had chosen this quiet spot outside the jurisdiction of all his enemies as the proper place to be crowned king. Even the twelve apostles were still tainted with such notions, and especially the younger evangelists.

This was the stage setting about five o'clock on Wednesday afternoon, when Jesus asked Andrew and Philip:

  • "What shall we do with the multitude? They have been with us now three days, and many of them are hungry. They have no food."

Philip and Andrew exchanged glances, and then Philip answered:

  • "Master, you should send these people away so that they may go to the villages around about and buy themselves food."

And Andrew, fearing the materialization of the king plot, quickly said:

  • "Yes, Master, I think it best that you dismiss the multitude so that they may go their way and buy food while you secure rest for a season."

By this time others of the twelve had joined the conference. Then said Jesus:

  • "But I do not desire to send them away hungry. Can you not feed them?"

This was too much for Philip, and he spoke right up:

  • "Master, in this country place where can we buy bread for this multitude? Two hundred denarii worth would not be enough for lunch."

Before the apostles had an opportunity to express themselves, Jesus turned to Andrew and Philip, saying:

  • "I do not want to send these people away. Here they are, like sheep without a shepherd. I would feed them. What food have we with us?"

While Philip was conversing with Matthew and Judas, Andrew sought out the Mark lad to ascertain how much was left of their store of provisions.

He returned to Jesus, saying:

  • "The lad has left only five barley loaves and two dried fishes"

Peter promptly added:

"We have yet to eat this evening."

For a moment Jesus stood in silence. There was a faraway look in his eyes. The apostles said nothing.

Jesus turned suddenly to Andrew and said:

  • "Bring me the loaves and fishes."

When Andrew had brought the basket to Jesus, the Master said:

  • "Direct the people to sit down on the grass in companies of one hundred and appoint a leader over each group while you bring all of the evangelists here with us."

Jesus took up the loaves in his hands, and after he had given thanks, he broke the bread and gave to his apostles, who passed it on to their associates, who in turn carried it to the multitude. Jesus in like manner broke and distributed the fishes. And this multitude did eat and were filled.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to the disciples:

  • "Gather up the broken pieces that remain over so that nothing will be lost."

When they had finished gathering up the fragments, they had twelve basketfuls. They who ate of this extraordinary feast numbered about five thousand men, women, and children.

This is the first and only nature miracle that Jesus performed as a result of his conscious preplanning. It is true that his disciples were disposed to call many things miracles that were not, but this was a genuine supernatural ministration. In this case, so we were taught, Michael multiplied food elements as he always does except for the elimination of the time factor and the visible life channel.

The King-Making Episode

Now that the multitude had been fed to the full, and since Jesus' fame was then and there augmented by this stupendous wonder, the project to seize the Master and proclaim him king required no further personal direction. The reaction of the multitude to this sudden and spectacular supplying of their physical needs was profound and overwhelming. There was but one unanimous reaction: "Here is our king."

No wonder, then, that the multitude, when it had finished feasting, rose as one man and shouted:

  • "Make him king!"

This mighty shout of the multitude had hardly ceased to reverberate from the near-by rocks when Jesus stepped upon a huge stone, and lifting up his right hand said:

  • "My children, you mean well, but you are short-sighted and material-minded."

There was a brief pause. This stalwart Galilean was there majestically posed in the enchanting glow of that eastern twilight.

Every inch he looked a king as he continued to speak to this breathless multitude:

  • "You would make me king, not because your souls have been lighted with a great truth, but because your stomachs have been filled with bread. How many times have I told you that my kingdom is not of this world? This kingdom of heaven that we proclaim is a spiritual brotherhood, and no man rules over it seated upon a material throne. My Father in heaven is the all wise and the all-powerful Ruler over this spiritual brotherhood of the sons of God on earth. Have I so failed in revealing to you the Father of spirits that you would make a king of his Son in the flesh! Now all of you go hence to your own homes. If you must have a king, let the Father of lights be enthroned in the heart of each of you as the spirit Ruler of all things."

These words of Jesus sent the multitude away stunned and disheartened. The apostles were speechless; they stood in silence gathered about the twelve baskets of food fragments.

Only the chore boy, the Mark lad, spoke:

  • "And he refused to be our king."

Jesus, before going off to be alone in the hills, turned to Andrew and said:

  • "Take your brethren back to Zebedee's house and pray with them, especially for your brother, Simon Peter."

Simon Peter's Night Vision

The apostles, without their Master -- sent off by themselves -- entered the boat and in silence began to row toward Bethsaida on the western shore of the lake. None of the twelve was so crushed and downcast as Simon Peter. Hardly a word was spoken; they were all thinking of the Master alone in the hills. Had he forsaken them? He had never before sent them all away and refused to go with them. What could all this mean?

Darkness descended upon them, for there had arisen a strong and contrary wind which made progress almost impossible. As the hours of darkness and hard rowing passed, Peter grew weary and fell into a deep sleep of exhaustion. Andrew and James put him to rest on the cushioned seat in the stern of the boat. While the other apostles toiled against the wind and the waves, Peter dreamed a dream; he saw a vision of Jesus coming to them walking on the sea.

When the Master seemed to walk on by the boat, Peter cried out:

  • "Save us, Master, save us."

And those who were in the rear of the boat heard him say some of these words. As this apparition of the night season continued in Peter's mind, he dreamed that he heard Jesus say:

  • "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid."

This was like the balm of Gilead to Peter's disturbed soul; it soothed his troubled spirit, so that (in his dream) he cried out to the Master:

  • "Lord, if it really is you, bid me come and walk with you on the water."

And when Peter started to walk upon the water, the boisterous waves frightened him, and as he was about to sink, he cried out,

  • "Lord, save me!"

And many of the twelve heard him utter this cry. Then Peter dreamed that Jesus came to the rescue and, stretching forth his hand, took hold and lifted him up, saying:

  • "O, you of little faith, wherefore did you doubt?"

In connection with the latter part of his dream Peter arose from the seat whereon he slept and actually stepped overboard and into the water. And he awakened from his dream as Andrew, James, and John reached down and pulled him out of the sea.

To Peter this experience was always real. He sincerely believed that Jesus came to them that night. He only partially convinced John Mark, which explains why Mark left a portion of the story out of his narrative. Luke, the physician, who made careful search into these matters, concluded that the episode was a vision of Peter's and therefore refused to give place to this story in the preparation of his narrative.

Back in Bethsaida

Thursday morning, before daylight, they anchored their boat offshore near Zebedee's house and sought sleep until about noontime. Andrew was first up, and going for a walk by the sea, found Jesus in company with their chore boy sitting on a stone by the water's edge.

Of the five thousand who were miraculously fed, and who, when their stomachs were full and their hearts empty, would have made him king, only about five hundred persisted in following after him. But before these received word that he was back in Bethsaida, Jesus asked Andrew to assemble the twelve apostles and their associates, including the women, saying:

  • "I desire to speak with them."

And when all were ready, Jesus said:

  • "How long shall I bear with you? Are you all slow of spiritual comprehension and deficient in living faith? All these months have I taught you the truths of the kingdom, and yet are you dominated by material motives instead of spiritual considerations. Have you not even read in the Scriptures where Moses exhorted the unbelieving children of Israel, saying: `Fear not, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord'? Said the singer: `Put your trust in the Lord.' `Be patient, wait upon the Lord and be of good courage. He shall strengthen your heart.' `Cast your burden on the Lord, and he shall sustain you. Trust him at all times and pour out your heart to him, for God is your refuge.' `He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.' `It is better to trust the Lord than to put confidence in human princes.'
  • "And now do you all see that the working of miracles and the performance of material wonders will not win souls for the spiritual kingdom? We fed the multitude, but it did not lead them to hunger for the bread of life neither to thirst for the waters of spiritual righteousness. When their hunger was satisfied, they sought not entrance into the kingdom of heaven but rather sought to proclaim the Son of Man king after the manner of the kings of this world, only that they might continue to eat bread without having to toil therefor. And all this, in which many of you did more or less participate, does nothing to reveal the heavenly Father or to advance his kingdom on earth. Have we not sufficient enemies among the religious leaders of the land without doing that which is likely to estrange also the civil rulers? I pray that the Father will anoint your eyes that you may see and open your ears that you may hear, to the end that you may have full faith in the gospel which I have taught you."

Jesus then announced that he wished to withdraw for a few days of rest with his apostles before they made ready to go up to Jerusalem for the Passover, and he forbade any of the disciples or the multitude to follow him. Jesus was preparing for a great crisis of his life on earth, and he therefore spent much time in communion with the Father in heaven.

The news of the feeding of the five thousand and the attempt to make Jesus king aroused widespread curiosity and stirred up the fears of both the religious leaders and the civil rulers throughout all Galilee and Judea. While this great miracle did nothing to further the gospel of the kingdom in the souls of material-minded and halfhearted believers, it did serve the purpose of bringing to a head the miracle-seeking and king-craving proclivities of Jesus' immediate family of apostles and close disciples. This spectacular episode brought an end to the early era of teaching, training, and healing, thereby preparing the way for the inauguration of this last year of proclaiming the higher and more spiritual phases of the new gospel of the kingdom -- divine sonship, spiritual liberty, and eternal salvation.

At Gennesaret

While resting at the home of a wealthy believer in the Gennesaret region, Jesus held informal conferences with the twelve every afternoon. In less than one month's time the enthusiastic and open followers of Jesus, who numbered more than fifty thousand in Galilee alone, shrank to less than five hundred.

The second night of their sojourn at Gennesaret the Master again told the apostles the parable of the sower and added these words:

  • "You see, my children, the appeal to human feelings is transitory and utterly disappointing. The exclusive appeal to the intellect of man is likewise empty and barren. It is only by making your appeal to the spirit that lives within the human mind that you can hope to achieve lasting success. And to accomplish those marvelous transformations of human character that are presently shown in the abundant yielding of the genuine fruits of the spirit in the daily lives of all who are thus delivered from the darkness of doubt by the birth of the spirit, into the light of faith -- the kingdom of heaven."

Jesus taught the appeal to the emotions as the technique of arresting and focusing the intellectual attention. He designated the mind thus aroused and quickened as the gateway to the soul, where there resides that spiritual nature of man that must recognize truth and respond to the spiritual appeal of the gospel in order to afford the permanent results of true character transformations.