Chapter 19 - Tarrying and Teaching by the Seaside
TARRYING AND TEACHING BY THE SEASIDE
BY MARCH 10 all of the preaching and teaching groups had forgathered at Bethsaida. Thursday night and Friday many of them went out to fish, while on the Sabbath day they attended the synagogue to hear an aged Jew of Damascus discourse on the glory of father Abraham.
Jesus spent most of this Sabbath day alone in the hills. He had not fully recovered from the sorrow of his recent rejection at Nazareth. The apostles were aware of a peculiar sadness mingled with his usual cheerful demeanor. James and John were with him much of the time, Peter being more than occupied with the many responsibilities having to do with the welfare and direction of the new corps of evangelists. This time of waiting before starting for the Passover at Jerusalem, the women spent in visiting from house to house, teaching the gospel, and ministering to the sick in Capernaum and the surrounding cities and villages.
The Parable of the Sower
Since Jesus had talked with the apostles and others long into the night, on this Sunday morning very few of the group was up for breakfast. So he went out by the seaside and sat alone in the boat, the old fishing boat of Andrew and Peter, which was always kept at his disposal, and meditated on the next move to be made in the work of extending the kingdom. But the Master was not to be alone for long. Very soon the people from Capernaum and near-by villages began to arrive. By ten o'clock that morning almost one thousand were assembled on shore near Jesus' boat and were clamoring for attention.
Peter was now up, and making his way to the boat, said to Jesus:
- "Master, shall I talk to them?"
- "No, Peter, I will tell them a story."
And then Jesus began the recital of the parable of the sower. One of the first of a long series of such parables that he taught the throngs that followed after him. This boat had an elevated seat on which he sat (for it was the custom to sit when teaching) while he talked to the crowd assembled along the shore.
After Peter had spoken a few words, Jesus said:
- "A sower went forth to sow, and it came to pass as he sowed that some seed fell by the wayside to be trodden underfoot and devoured by the birds of heaven. Other seed fell upon the rocky places where there was little earth, and immediately it sprang up because there was no depth to the soil, but as soon as the sun shone, it withered because it had no root whereby to secure moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns, and as the thorns grew up, it was choked so that it yielded no grain. Still other seed fell upon good ground, and growing, yielded some thirty fold, some sixty fold, and some a hundredfold."
And when he had finished speaking this parable, he said to the multitude:
- "He who has ears to hear let him hear."
The apostles and those who were with them, when they heard Jesus teach the people in this manner, were greatly perplexed. After much talking among themselves, that evening in the Zebedee garden Matthew said to Jesus:
- "Master, what is the meaning of the dark sayings that you present to the multitude? Why do you speak in parables to those who seek the truth?"
And Jesus answered:
- "In patience have I instructed you all this time. To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to the undiscerning multitudes and to those who seek our destruction, from now on, the mysteries of the kingdom shall be presented in parables. And this we will do so that those who really desire to enter the kingdom may discern the meaning of the teaching and thus find salvation, while those who listen only to ensnare us may be the more confounded in that they will see without seeing and will hear without hearing. My children, do you not perceive the law of the spirit which decrees that to him who has shall be given so that he shall have an abundance. But from him who has not shall be taken away even that which he has. Therefore will I henceforth speak to the people much in parables to the end that our friends and those who desire to know the truth may find that which they seek, while our enemies and those who love not the truth may hear without understanding. Many of these people follow not in the way of the truth. The prophet did, indeed, describe all such undiscerning souls when he said: `For this people's heart has waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed lest they should discern the truth and understand it in their hearts.'"
More about Parables
Jesus introduced the evening's conference by saying:
- "My beloved, you must always make a difference in teaching so as to suit your presentation of truth to the minds and hearts before you. When you stand before a multitude of varying intellects and temperaments, you cannot speak different words for each class of hearers. But you can tell a story to convey your teaching, and each group, even each individual, will be able to make his own interpretation of your parable in accordance with his own intellectual and spiritual endowments. You are to let your light shine but do so with wisdom and discretion. No man, when he lights a lamp, covers it up with a vessel or puts it under the bed. He puts his lamp on a stand where all can behold the light. Let me tell you that nothing is hid in the kingdom of heaven that shall not be made manifest. Neither are there any secrets that shall not ultimately be made known. Eventually, all these things shall come to light. Think not only of the multitudes and how they hear the truth, take heed also to yourselves how you hear. Remember that I have many times told you: To him who has shall be given more, while from him who has not shall be taken away even that which he thinks he has."
Before he dismissed the group for the night, Jesus said:
- "Now will I tell you the last of the parable of the sower. I would test you to know how you will receive this: The kingdom of heaven is also like a man who cast good seed upon the earth, and while he slept by night and went about his business by day, the seed sprang up and grew. Although he knew not how it came about, the plant came to fruit. First there was the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. Then when the grain was ripe, he put forth the sickle, and the harvest was finished. He who has an ear to hear let him hear."
More Parables by the Sea
The next day Jesus again taught the people from the boat, saying:
- "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while he slept, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and hastened away. So when the young blades sprang up and later were about to bring forth fruit, there appeared also the weeds. Then the servants of this householder came and said to him: `Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? Whence then come these weeds?' And he replied to his servants, `An enemy has done this.' The servants then asked their master, `Would you have us go out and pluck up these weeds?' But he answered them and said: `No, lest while you are gathering them up, you uproot the wheat also. Rather let them both grow together until the time of the harvest, when I will say to the reapers: Gather up first the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn and then gather up the wheat to be stored in my barn.'"
After the people had asked a few questions, Jesus spoke another parable:
- "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man sowed in his field. Now a mustard seed is the least of seeds, but when it is full grown, it becomes the greatest of all herbs and is like a tree so that the birds of heaven are able to come and rest in it’s branches."
- "The kingdom of heaven is also like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, and in this way it came about that all of the meal was leavened."
- "The kingdom of heaven is also like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man discovered. In his joy he went forth to sell all he had that he might have the money to buy the field."
- "The kingdom of heaven is also like a merchant seeking goodly pearls. And having found one pearl of great price, he went out and sold everything he possessed that he might be able to buy the extraordinary pearl."
- "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a sweep net that was cast into the sea, and it gathered up every kind of fish. Now, when the net was filled, the fishermen drew it up on the beach, where they sat down and sorted out the fish, gathering the good into vessels while the bad they threw away."
The Visit to Kheresa
Jesus spoke in the early afternoon after the preaching of Peter, and when he had finished, he said to his apostles:
- "I am weary of the throngs, let us cross over to the other side that we may rest for a day."
On the way across the lake they encountered one of those violent and sudden windstorms that are characteristic of the Sea of Galilee, especially at this season of the year. Three other boats containing some of the younger evangelists were trailing after. This tempest was severe, notwithstanding that it was confined to this region of the lake, there being no evidence of a storm on the western shore.
Meanwhile Jesus lay asleep in the stern of the boat under a small overhead shelter. When the boat began to fill with water, Peter dropped his oar, and rushing over to Jesus, shook him vigorously in order to awaken him, and when he was aroused, Peter said:
- "Master, don't you know we are in a violent storm? If you do not save us, we will all perish."
As Jesus came out in the rain, he looked first at Peter, and then peering into the darkness at the struggling oarsmen, he turned his glance back upon Simon Peter, who, in his agitation, had not yet returned to his oar, and said:
- "Why are all of you so filled with fear? Where is your faith? Peace, be quiet."
Jesus had hardly uttered this rebuke to Peter and the other apostles, he had hardly bidden Peter seek peace wherewith to quiet his troubled soul, when the disturbed atmosphere, having established its equilibrium, settled down into a great calm. The angry waves almost immediately subsided, while the dark clouds, having spent themselves in a short shower, vanished, and the stars of heaven shone overhead. All this was purely coincidental as far as we can judge. But the apostles, in particular, Simon Peter, never ceased to regard the episode as a nature miracle.
Jesus plainly explained to the twelve that he had spoken to their troubled spirits and had addressed himself to their fear-tossed minds, that he had not commanded the elements to obey his word, but it was of no avail. The Master's followers always persisted in placing their own interpretation on all such coincidental occurrences.
It was late in the evening when Jesus and his associates reached the shore, and since it was a calm and beautiful night, they all rested in the boats, not going ashore until shortly after sunrise the next morning.
When they were gathered together, about forty in all, Jesus said:
- "Let us go up into yonder hills and tarry for a few days while we ponder over the problems of the Father's kingdom."
The Kheresa Lunatic
Although most of the near-by eastern shore of the lake sloped up gently to the highlands beyond, at this particular spot there was a steep hillside, the shore in some places dropping sheer down into the lake.
Pointing up to the side of the near-by hill, Jesus said:
- "Let us go up on this hillside for our breakfast and under some of the shelters rest and talk."
This entire hillside was covered with caverns that had been hewn out of the rock. Many of these niches were ancient sepulchers. About halfway up the hillside on a small, relatively level spot was the cemetery of the little village of Kheresa. As Jesus and his associates passed near this burial ground, a lunatic who lived in these hillside caverns rushed up to them. This demented man was well known about these parts, having onetime been bound with fetters and chains and confined in one of the grottos. Long since he had broken his shackles and now roamed at will among the tombs and abandoned sepulchers.
This man, whose name was Amos, was afflicted with a periodic form of insanity. There were considerable spells when he would find some clothing and deport himself fairly well among his fellows. During one of these lucid intervals he had gone over to Bethsaida, where he heard the preaching of Jesus and the apostles, and at that time had become a halfhearted believer in the gospel of the kingdom. But soon a stormy phase of his trouble appeared, and he fled to the tombs, where he moaned, cried out aloud, and so conducted himself as to terrorize all who chanced to meet him.
When Amos recognized Jesus, he fell down at his feet and exclaimed:
- "I know you, Jesus, but I am possessed of many devils, and I beseech that you will not torment me."
This man truly believed that his periodic mental affliction was due to the fact that, at such times, evil or unclean spirits entered into him and dominated his mind and body. His troubles were mostly emotional -- his brain was not grossly diseased.
Jesus, looking down upon the man crouching like an animal at his feet, reached down, and taking him by the hand, stood him up and said to him:
- "Amos, you are not possessed of a devil, you have already heard the good news that you are a son of God. I command you to come out of this spell."
When Amos heard Jesus speak these words, there occurred such a transformation in his intellect that he was immediately restored to his right mind and the normal control of his emotions. By this time a considerable crowd had assembled from the near-by village, and these people, augmented by the swine herders from the highland above them, were astonished to see the lunatic sitting with Jesus and his followers, in possession of his right mind and freely conversing with them.
As the swine herders rushed into the village to spread the news of the taming of the lunatic, the dogs charged upon a small and untended herd of about thirty swine and drove most of them over a precipice into the sea. It was this incidental occurrence, in connection with the presence of Jesus and the supposed miraculous curing of the lunatic that gave origin to the legend that Jesus had cured Amos by casting a legion of devils out of him, and that these devils had entered into the herd of swine, causing them to rush headlong to their destruction in the sea below. Before the day was over, this episode was published abroad by the swine tenders, and the whole village believed it. Amos most certainly believed this story. He saw the swine tumbling over the brow of the hill shortly after his troubled mind had quieted down, and he always believed that they carried with them the very evil spirits that had so long tormented and afflicted him. And this had a good deal to do with the permanency of his cure. It is equally true that all of Jesus' apostles (save Thomas) believed that the episode of the swine was directly connected with the cure of Amos.
Jesus did not obtain the rest he was looking for. Most of that day he was thronged by those who came in response to the word that Amos had been cured, and who were attracted by the story that the demons had gone out of the lunatic into the herd of swine. And so, after only one night of rest, early Tuesday morning Jesus and his friends were awakened by a delegation of these swine-raising gentiles who had come to urge that he depart from their midst.
Said their spokesman to Peter and Andrew:
- "Fishermen of Galilee, depart from us and take your prophet with you. We know he is a holy man, but the gods of our country do not know him, and we stand in danger of losing many swine. The fear of you has descended upon us, so that we pray you to go hence."
And when Jesus heard them, he said to Andrew:
- "Let us return to our place."
As they were about to depart, Amos besought Jesus to permit him to go back with them, but the Master would not consent.
Said Jesus to Amos:
- "Forget not that you are a son of God. Return to your own people and show them what great things God has done for you."
And Amos went about publishing that Jesus had cast a legion of devils out of his troubled soul, and that these evil spirits had entered into a herd of swine, driving them to quick destruction. He did not stop until he had gone into all the cities of the Decapolis, declaring what great things Jesus had done for him.