The Crisis in Galilee
WHEN Christ forbade the people to declare
Him king, He knew that a turning point in His history was reached. Multitudes who desired
to exalt Him to the throne today would turn from Him tomorrow. The disappointment of their
selfish ambition would turn their love to hatred, and their praise to curses. Yet knowing
this, He took no measures to avert the crisis. From the first He had held out to His
followers no hope of earthly rewards. To one who came desiring to become His disciple He
had said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of
man hath not where to lay His head." Matt. 8:20. If men could have had the world with
Christ, multitudes would have proffered Him their allegiance; but such service He could
not accept. Of those now connected with Him there were many who had been attracted by the
hope of a worldly kingdom. These must be undeceived. The deep spiritual teaching in the
miracle of the loaves had not been comprehended. This was to be made plain. And this new
revelation would bring with it a closer test.
The miracle of the loaves was
reported far and near, and very early next morning the people flocked to Bethsaida to see
Jesus. They came in great numbers, by land and sea. Those who had left Him the preceding
night returned, expecting to find Him still there; for there had been no boat by which He
could pass to the other side. But their search was fruitless, and many repaired to
Capernaum, still seeking Him.
Meanwhile He had arrived at
Gennesaret, after an absence of but one day. As soon as it was known that He had landed,
the people "ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in
beds those that were sick, where they heard He was." Mark 6:55.
After a time He went to the
synagogue, and there those who had come from Bethsaida found Him. They learned from His
disciples how He had crossed the sea. The fury of the storm, and the many hours of
fruitless rowing against adverse winds, the appearance of Christ walking upon the water,
the fears thus aroused, His reassuring words, the adventure of Peter and its result, with
the sudden stilling of the tempest and landing of the boat, were all faithfully recounted
to the wondering crowd. Not content with this, however, many gathered about Jesus,
questioning, "Rabbi, when camest Thou hither?" They hoped to receive from His
own lips a further account of the miracle.
Jesus did not gratify their
curiosity. He sadly said, "Ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because
ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled." They did not seek Him from any worthy
motive; but as they had been fed with the loaves, they hoped still to receive temporal
benefit by attaching themselves to Him. The Saviour bade them, "Labor not for the
meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto
everlasting life." Seek
not merely for material benefit. Let it not be the chief effort to provide for the life
that now is, but seek for spiritual food, even that wisdom which will endure unto
everlasting life. This the Son of God alone can give; "for Him hath God the Father
For the moment the interest
of the hearers was awakened. They exclaimed, "What shall we do, that we might work
the works of God?" They had been performing many and burdensome works in order to
recommend themselves to God; and they were ready to hear of any new observance by which
they could secure greater merit. Their question meant, What shall we do that we may
deserve heaven? What is the price we are required to pay in order to obtain the life to
"Jesus answered and said
unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent." The
price of heaven is Jesus. The way to heaven is through faith in "the Lamb of God,
which taketh away the sin of the world." John 1:29.
But the people did not choose
to receive this statement of divine truth. Jesus had done the very work which prophecy had
foretold that the Messiah would do; but they had not witnessed what their selfish hopes
had pictured as His work. Christ had indeed once fed the multitude with barley loaves; but
in the days of Moses Israel had been fed with manna forty years, and far greater blessings
were expected from the Messiah. Their dissatisfied hearts queried why, if Jesus could
perform so many wondrous works as they had witnessed, could He not give health, strength,
and riches to all His people, free them from their oppressors, and exalt them to power and
honor? The fact that He claimed to be the Sent of God, and yet refused to be Israel's
king, was a mystery which they could not fathom. His refusal was misinterpreted. Many
concluded that He dared not assert His claims because He Himself doubted as to the divine
character of His mission. Thus they opened their hearts to unbelief, and the seed which
Satan had sown bore fruit of its kind, in misunderstanding and defection.
Now, half mockingly, a rabbi
questioned, "What sign showest Thou then, that we may see, and believe Thee? what
dost Thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them
bread from heaven to eat."
The Jews honored Moses as the
giver of the manna, ascribing praise to the instrument, and losing sight of Him by whom
the work had been accomplished. Their fathers had murmured against Moses, and had doubted
and denied his divine mission. Now in the same spirit the
children rejected the One who
bore the message of God to themselves. "Then said Jesus unto them, Verily, verily, I
say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven." The giver of the manna was
standing among them. It was Christ Himself who had led the Hebrews through the wilderness,
and had daily fed them with the bread from heaven. That food was a type of the real bread
from heaven. The life-giving Spirit, flowing from the infinite fullness of God, is the
true manna. Jesus said, "The bread of God is that which cometh down out of heaven,
and giveth life unto the world." John 6:33, R. V.
Still thinking that it was
temporal food to which Jesus referred, some of His hearers exclaimed, "Lord, evermore
give us this bread." Jesus then spoke plainly: "I am the bread of life."
The figure which Christ used
was a familiar one to the Jews. Moses, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had said,
"Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth
of the Lord." And the prophet Jeremiah had written, "Thy words were found, and I
did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart." Deut.
8:3; Jer. 15:16. The rabbis themselves had a saying, that the eating of bread, in its
spiritual significance, was the study of the law and the practice of good works; and it
was often said that at the Messiah's coming all Israel would be fed. The teaching of the
prophets made plain the deep spiritual lesson in the miracle of the loaves. This lesson
Christ was seeking to open to His hearers in the synagogue. Had they understood the
Scriptures, they would have understood His words when He said, "I am the bread of
life." Only the day before, the great multitude, when faint and weary, had been fed
by the bread which He had given. As from that bread they had received physical strength
and refreshment, so from Christ they might receive spiritual strength unto eternal life.
"He that cometh to Me," He said, "shall never hunger; and he that believeth
on Me shall never thirst." But He added, "Ye also have seen Me, and believe
They had seen Christ by the
witness of the Holy Spirit, by the revelation of God to their souls. The living evidences
of His power had been before them day after day, yet they asked for still another sign.
Had this been given, they would have remained as unbelieving as before. If they were not
convinced by what they had seen and heard, it was useless to show them more marvelous
works. Unbelief will ever find excuse for doubt, and will reason away the most positive
Again Christ appealed to
those stubborn hearts. "Him that cometh
to Me I will in nowise cast out." All
who received Him in faith, He said, should have eternal life. Not one could be lost. No
need for Pharisees and Sadducees to dispute concerning the future life. No longer need men
mourn in hopeless grief over their dead. "This is the will of Him that sent Me, that
everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will
raise him up at the last day."
But the leaders of the people
were offended, "and they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and
mother we know? how is it then that He saith, I came down from heaven?" They tried to
arouse prejudice by referring scornfully to the lowly origin of Jesus. They contemptuously
alluded to His life as a Galilean laborer, and to His family as being poor and lowly. The
claims of this uneducated carpenter, they said, were unworthy of their attention. And on
account of His mysterious birth they insinuated that He was of doubtful parentage, thus
representing the human circumstances of His birth as a blot upon His history.
Jesus did not attempt to
explain the mystery of His birth. He made no answer to the questionings in regard to His
having come down from heaven, as He had made none to the questions concerning His crossing
the sea. He did not call attention to the miracles that marked His life. Voluntarily He
had made Himself of no reputation, and taken upon Him the form of a servant. But His words
and works revealed His character. All whose hearts were open to divine illumination would
recognize in Him "the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
The prejudice of the
Pharisees lay deeper than their questions would indicate; it had its root in the
perversity of their hearts. Every word and act of Jesus aroused antagonism in them; for
the spirit which they cherished could find in Him no answering chord.
"No man can come to Me,
except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It
is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that
hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me." None will ever come to
Christ, save those who respond to the drawing of the Father's love. But God is drawing all
hearts unto Him, and only those who resist His drawing will refuse to come to Christ.
In the words, "They
shall be all taught of God," Jesus referred to the prophecy of Isaiah: "All thy
children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children."
Isa. 54:13. This scripture
the Jews appropriated to themselves. It was their boast that
God was their teacher. But Jesus showed how vain is this claim; for He said, "Every
man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me." Only
through Christ could they receive a knowledge of the Father. Humanity could not endure the
vision of His glory. Those who had learned of God had been listening to the voice of His
Son, and in Jesus of Nazareth they would recognize Him who through nature and revelation
has declared the Father.
"Verily, verily, I say
unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life." Through the beloved John,
who listened to these words, the Holy Spirit declared to the churches, "This is the
record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath
the Son hath life." 1 John 5:11, 12. And Jesus said, "I will raise him up at the
last day." Christ became one flesh with us, in order that we might become one spirit
with Him. It is by virtue of this union that we are to come forth from the grave,--not
merely as a manifestation of the power of Christ, but because, through faith, His life has
become ours. Those who see Christ in His true character, and receive Him into the heart,
have everlasting life. It is through the Spirit that Christ dwells in us; and the Spirit
of God, received into the heart by faith, is the beginning of the life eternal.
The people had referred
Christ to the manna which their fathers ate in the wilderness, as if the furnishing of
that food was a greater miracle than Jesus had performed; but He shows how meager was that
gift when compared with the blessings He had come to bestow. The manna could sustain only
this earthly existence; it did not prevent the approach of death, nor insure immortality;
but the bread of heaven would nourish the soul unto everlasting life. The Saviour said,
"I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall
live forever." To this figure Christ now adds another. Only through dying could He
impart life to men, and in the words that follow He points to His death as the means of
salvation. He says, "The bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for
the life of the world."
The Jews were about to
celebrate the Passover at Jerusalem, in commemoration of the night of Israel's
deliverance, when the destroying angel smote the homes of Egypt. In the paschal lamb God
to behold the Lamb of God, and through the symbol receive Him who gave
Himself for the life of the world. But the Jews had come to make the symbol all-important,
while its significance was unnoticed. They discerned not the Lord's body. The same truth
that was symbolized in the paschal service was taught in the words of Christ. But it was
Now the rabbis exclaimed
angrily, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?" They affected to
understand His words in the same literal sense as did Nicodemus when he asked, "How
can a man be born when he is old?" John 3:4. To some extent they comprehended the
meaning of Jesus, but they were not willing to acknowledge it. By misconstruing His words,
they hoped to prejudice the people against Him.
Christ did not soften down
His symbolical representation. He reiterated the truth in yet stronger language:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink
His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath
eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is meat indeed, and My
blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and
I in him."
To eat the flesh and drink
the blood of Christ is to receive Him as a personal Saviour, believing that He forgives
our sins, and that we are complete in Him. It is by beholding His love, by dwelling upon
it, by drinking it in, that we are to become partakers of His nature. What food is to the
body, Christ must be to the soul. Food cannot benefit us unless we eat it, unless it
becomes a part of our being. So Christ is of no value to us if we do not know Him as a
personal Saviour. A theoretical knowledge will do us no good. We must feed upon Him,
receive Him into the heart, so that His life becomes our life. His love, His grace, must
But even these figures fail
to present the privilege of the believer's relation to Christ. Jesus said, "As the
living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall
live by Me." As the Son of God lived by faith in the Father, so are we to live by
faith in Christ. So fully was Jesus surrendered to the will of God that the Father alone
appeared in His life. Although tempted in all points like as we are, He stood before the
world untainted by the evil that surrounded Him. Thus we also are to overcome as Christ
Are you a follower of Christ?
Then all that is written concerning the spiritual life is written for you, and may be
attained through uniting yourself
to Jesus. Is your zeal languishing? has your first love
grown cold? Accept again of the proffered love of Christ. Eat of His flesh, drink of His
blood, and you will become one with the Father and with the Son.
The unbelieving Jews refused
to see any except the most literal meaning in the Saviour's words. By the ritual law they
were forbidden to taste blood, and they now construed Christ's language into a
sacrilegious speech, and disputed over it among themselves. Many even of the disciples
said, "This is an hard saying; who can hear it?"
The Saviour answered them:
"Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was
before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I
speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
The life of Christ that gives
life to the world is in His word. It was by His word that Jesus healed disease and cast
out demons; by His word He stilled the sea, and raised the dead; and the people bore
witness that His word was with power. He spoke the word of God, as He had spoken through
all the prophets and teachers of the Old Testament. The whole Bible is a manifestation of
Christ, and the Saviour desired to fix the faith of His followers on the word. When His
visible presence should be withdrawn, the word must be their source of power. Like their
Master, they were to live "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of
God." Matt. 4:4.
As our physical life is
sustained by food, so our spiritual life is sustained by the word of God. And every soul
is to receive life from God's word for himself. As we must eat for ourselves in order to
receive nourishment, so we must receive the word for ourselves. We are not to obtain it
merely through the medium of another's mind. We should carefully study the Bible, asking
God for the aid of the Holy Spirit, that we may understand His word. We should take one
verse, and concentrate the mind on the task of ascertaining the thought which God has put
in that verse for us. We should dwell upon the thought until it becomes our own, and we
know "what saith the Lord."
In His promises and warnings,
Jesus means me. God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that I by
believing in Him, might not perish, but have everlasting life. The experiences related in
God's word are to be my experiences. Prayer and promise, precept and warning, are mine.
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:
and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who
loved me, and gave Himself
for me." Gal. 2:20. As faith thus receives and
assimilates the principles of truth, they become a part of the being and the motive power
of the life. The word of God, received into the soul, molds the thoughts, and enters into
the development of character.
By looking constantly to
Jesus with the eye of faith, we shall be strengthened. God will make the most precious
revelations to His hungering, thirsting people. They will find that Christ is a personal
Saviour. As they feed upon His word, they find that it is spirit and life. The word
destroys the natural, earthly nature, and imparts a new life in Christ Jesus. The Holy
Spirit comes to the soul as a Comforter. By the transforming agency of His grace, the
image of God is reproduced in the disciple; he becomes a new creature. Love takes the
place of hatred, and the heart receives the divine similitude. This is what it means to
live "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." This is eating the
Bread that comes down from heaven.
Christ had spoken a sacred,
eternal truth regarding the relation between Himself and His followers. He knew the
character of those who claimed to be His disciples, and His words tested their faith. He
declared that they were to believe and act upon His teaching. All who received Him would
partake of His nature, and be conformed to His character. This involved the relinquishment
of their cherished ambitions. It required the complete surrender of themselves to Jesus.
They were called to become self-sacrificing, meek and lowly in heart. They must walk in
the narrow path traveled by the Man of Calvary, if they would share in the gift of life
and the glory of heaven.
The test was too great. The
enthusiasm of those who had sought to take Him by force and make Him king grew cold. This
discourse in the synagogue, they declared, had opened their eyes. Now they were
undeceived. In their minds His words were a direct confession that He was not the Messiah,
and that no earthly rewards were to be realized from connection with Him. They had
welcomed His miracle-working power; they were eager to be freed from disease and
suffering; but they would not come into sympathy with His self-sacrificing life. They
cared not for the mysterious spiritual kingdom of which He spoke. The insincere, the
selfish, who had sought Him, no longer desired Him. If He would not devote His power and
influence to obtaining their freedom from the Romans, they would have nothing to do with
Jesus told them plainly,
"There are some of you that believe not;" adding, "Therefore said I unto
you, that no man can come unto Me,
except it were given unto him of My Father."
He wished them to understand that if they were not drawn to Him it was because their
hearts were not open to the Holy Spirit. "The natural man receiveth not the things of
the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because
they are spiritually discerned." 1 Cor. 2:14. It is by faith that the soul beholds
the glory of Jesus. This glory is hidden, until, through the Holy Spirit, faith is kindled
in the soul.
By the public rebuke of their
unbelief these disciples were still further alienated from Jesus. They were greatly
displeased, and wishing to wound the Saviour and gratify the malice of the Pharisees, they
turned their backs upon Him, and left Him with disdain. They had made their choice,--had
taken the form without the spirit, the husk without the kernel. Their decision was never
afterward reversed; for they walked no more with Jesus.
"Whose fan is in His
hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner."
Matt. 3:12. This was one of the times of purging. By the words of truth, the chaff was
being separated from the wheat. Because they were too vain and self-righteous to receive
reproof, too world-loving to accept a life of humility, many turned away from Jesus. Many
are still doing the same thing. Souls are tested today as were those disciples in the
synagogue at Capernaum. When truth is brought home to the heart, they see that their lives
are not in accordance with the will of God. They see the need of an entire change in
themselves; but they are not willing to take up the self-denying work. Therefore they are
angry when their sins are discovered. They go away offended, even as the disciples left
Jesus, murmuring, "This is an hard saying; who can hear it?"
Praise and flattery would be
pleasing to their ears; but the truth is unwelcome; they cannot hear it. When the crowds
follow, and the multitudes are fed, and the shouts of triumph are heard, their voices are
loud in praise; but when the searching of God's Spirit reveals their sin, and bids them
leave it, they turn their backs upon the truth, and walk no more with Jesus.
As those disaffected
disciples turned away from Christ, a different spirit took control of them. They could see
nothing attractive in Him whom they had once found so interesting. They sought out His
enemies, for they were in harmony with their spirit and work. They misinterpreted His
words, falsified His statements, and impugned His motives. They sustained their course by
gathering up every item that could be
turned against Him; and such indignation was stirred
up by these false reports that His life was in danger.
The news spread swiftly that
by His own confession Jesus of Nazareth was not the Messiah. And thus in Galilee the
current of popular feeling was turned against Him, as, the year before, it had been in
Judea. Alas for Israel! They rejected their Saviour, because they longed for a conqueror
who would give them temporal power. They wanted the meat which perishes, and not that
which endures unto everlasting life.
With a yearning heart, Jesus
saw those who had been His disciples departing from Him, the Life and the Light of men.
The consciousness that His compassion was unappreciated, His love unrequited, His mercy
slighted, His salvation rejected, filled Him with sorrow that was inexpressible. It was
such developments as these that made Him a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
Without attempting to hinder
those who were leaving Him, Jesus turned to the twelve and said, "Will ye also go
Peter replied by asking,
"Lord, to whom shall we go?" "Thou hast the words of eternal life," he
added. "And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living
"To whom shall we
go?" The teachers of Israel were slaves to formalism. The Pharisees and Sadducees
were in constant contention. To leave Jesus was to fall among sticklers for rites and
ceremonies, and ambitious men who sought their own glory. The disciples had found more
peace and joy since they had accepted Christ than in all their previous lives. How could
they go back to those who had scorned and persecuted the Friend of sinners? They had long
been looking for the Messiah; now He had come, and they could not turn from His presence
to those who were hunting His life, and had persecuted them for becoming His followers.
"To whom shall we
go?" Not from the teaching of Christ, His lessons of love and mercy, to the darkness
of unbelief, the wickedness of the world. While the Saviour was forsaken by many who had
witnessed His wonderful works, Peter expressed the faith of the disciples,--"Thou art
that Christ." The very thought of losing this anchor of their souls filled them with
fear and pain. To be destitute of a Saviour was to be adrift on a dark and stormy sea.
Many of the words and acts of
Jesus appear mysterious to finite minds, but every word and act had its definite purpose
in the work for our redemption; each was calculated to produce its own result. If we
capable of understanding His purposes, all would appear important, complete, and in
harmony with His mission.
While we cannot now
comprehend the works and ways of God, we can discern His great love, which underlies all
His dealings with men. He who lives near to Jesus will understand much of the mystery of
godliness. He will recognize the mercy that administers reproof, that tests the character,
and brings to light the purpose of the heart.
When Jesus presented the
testing truth that caused so many of His disciples to turn back, He knew what would be the
result of His words; but He had a purpose of mercy to fulfill. He foresaw that in the hour
of temptation every one of His beloved disciples would be severely tested. His agony in
Gethsemane, His betrayal and crucifixion, would be to them a most trying ordeal. Had no
previous test been given, many who were actuated by merely selfish motives would have been
connected with them. When their Lord was condemned in the judgment hall; when the
multitude who had hailed Him as their king hissed at Him and reviled Him; when the jeering
crowd cried, "Crucify Him!"--when their worldly ambitions were disappointed,
these self-seeking ones would, by renouncing their allegiance to Jesus, have brought upon
the disciples a bitter, heart-burdening sorrow, in addition to their grief and
disappointment in the ruin of their fondest hopes. In that hour of darkness, the example
of those who turned from Him might have carried others with them. But Jesus brought about
this crisis while by His personal presence He could still strengthen the faith of His true
Compassionate Redeemer, who
in the full knowledge of the doom that awaited Him, tenderly smoothed the way for the
disciples, prepared them for their crowning trial, and strengthened them for the final