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he looked round for Christ, and, on the very brink of being swallowed up, cried to Jesus for help. Save Lord, or I perish. Jesus dealt very mercifully with his apostle in not suffering him to drop to the bottom at once. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt ? Peter did not doubt that it was Jesus who walked upon the water. He must have been convinced of that before he left the vessel; nay, must have been convinced of it while he was sinking, else he would not have called to him for assistance: but he was afraid that Jesus would not, or could not, support him against the wind, which blew more fiercely than before; a doubt most unreasonable and culpable, since it was as easy to support him against the storm, as to keep him upon the water, which Jesus had virtually promised when Peter first left the vessel. The people of God, warned by this example, should beware of presumption and self-sufficiency; and, in all their actions, should take care not to be precipitate. Wherever God calls them, they are boldly to go, not terrified at the danger or difficulty of the duty, his providence being always able to support and protect them. But he who goes without a call, and proceeds further than he is called, who rushes into difficulties and temptations without any reason, may, by the unhappy issue of his conduct, be made to feel how dangerous a thing it is for one to go out of his sphere. Being convinced by the miracle of making Peter walk upon the sea that it was no spectre, but their Master, they received him into the ship with joy, in expectation, perhaps, that he would make the wind and the sea calm. Nor were their hopes frustrated: for, as soon as he came into the boat, the storm ceased so suddenly, that they were all sensible it was the effect of his power and will; an opinion which they would be confirmed in, if, as on other occasions, he now rebuked the wind and the sea.
On this occasion, Jesus seems to have wrought another miracle also; for, no sooner had he hushed the storm, than, driven by his power, they found themselves with their boat, in an instant, safe at land. John tells us, vi. 17, that "they went over the sea towards Capernaum." The country of Gennezareth, therefore, where they landed, as Matthew and Mark tell us afterwards, was not far from Capernaum. According to Josephus, Bel. iii. 18, the land of Gennezareth ran thirty furlongs along the shore of the lake, and was, in breadth, twenty. When Jesus came to the disciples, they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs: wherefore, as the lake was forty furlongs broad, the boat was miraculously driven, in an instant, at least, ten furlongs. The hushing of the storm, and their instantaneous arrival at the land, astonished the disciples exceedingly, and made them wonder at the greatness of their Master's power. For, though he had so lately performed the miracle of the loaves; nay, though they had the sensible proof thereof before their eyes, in the baskets of fragments which they had taken with them into the ship, and, perhaps, had been talking of it before the storm came on, they were so stupified with their fear, that they did not reflect on that miracle. We need not, therefore, be surprized that they did not call to mind a similar exertion of his power, which they had beheld while they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes.
Though, on many occasions, formerly, Jesus had given equal, if not greater, evidences of his power, the disciples did not till now make open professions of his dignity. It seems, when his miracles came thus to be multiplied, but especially when they followed upon one another so close, the apostles were more deeply affected with then than by seeing him perform a single miracle only. No wonder, therefore, that they were now perfectly confirmed in the opinion which they had so justly conceived of
The evangelists, Matthew and Mark, omitting the conversation in the synagogue
of Capernaum, which happened the day after the miracle of the loaves, and, consequently, on the very day that Jesus arrived at Capernaum, give us, in a few words, the transactions of several days, perhaps, weeks, that is to say, the transactions of the whole space which passed between our Lord's arrival at Capernaum after the miracle of the loaves, and his departure to the passover, which John tells us was then at hand. These passages, therefore, naturally come in after the sixth chapter of John; because the miracles described in them were performed some days after the conversation in the synagogue, recorded in that chapter. Nevertheless, as the two evangelists have narrated these miracles in connexion with our Lord's arrival at Capernaum, it will not be improper to speak of them here.
Jesus ordinarily resided in this neighbourhood; but he had been absent for some time. Wherefore, the inhabitants, being well acquainted with him, knew him, immediately on his landing, to be that great prophet who commonly resided in the neighbouring town of Capernaum, and who had done numberless miracles among them. Being, therefore, glad that he was returned, they sent messengers to all their friends and acquaintance in the country round about, who were sick, desiring them to come and be cured. This happened immediately on his landing, and before he entered Capernaum. The people, rejoicing at the opportunity, came, after a few days, in great crowds, carrying their sick in beds, and bringing them to Jesus, whether he was in Capernaum, or the neighbouring country: for he tarried here till he took his journey to the passover. The number of the sick brought to him to be cured was so great, that he could not bestow particular attention upon each of them. They and their friends, therefore, besought him to grant them the favour of touching, if it were but the extremity of his clothes, being certain of obtaining thereby a complete cure. Nor were their expectations disappointed: for as many as touched him were made perfectly whole, whatever the distemper was which they laboured under.
And now to return to the people whom Jesus had fed by miracle; notwithstanding he had ordered them to go home when he had sent his disciples away, he did not leave the desert mountain. It seems, they took notice that no boat had come thither but the one belonging to the disciples; and because Jesus did not go with them, they concluded he had no design of leaving his attendants. Wherefore, though by withdrawing into the mountain, he modestly declined the dignity they had offered him, they persuaded themselves he would be prevailed upon to accept it the next day, especially as they might fancy the disciples were dispatched to prepare matters for that purpose. In this hope, they remained all night about the foot of the mountain, in the clefts of the rocks, making the best shift they could to defend themselves from the storm; and, as soon as the morning was come, they went up to wait on Jesus; but they did not meet with him, though they searched for him up and down the mountain. At length, they began to think he had gone off in one of the boats belonging to Tiberias, which, during the storm, had taken shelter in some creek or other at the foot of the mountain. The most forward of the multitude, therefore, entering those boats, sailed to Capernaum, the known place of our Lord's residence, where they found him in the synagogue teaching the people, [John vi. 59.] and asked him, with an air of surprize, how and when he came thither. Jesus answered them, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye seek me not because ye saw the miracles. Ye are not come after me because ye were convinced, by my miracles, of the truth of my mission, and are now disposed to hearken unto my doctrine: but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled having been once fed, you expect that I will feed you frequently by miracle; and the satisfaction you found in that meal, has made you conceive great hopes of
temporal felicity under my administration. These are the views with which you are following me, but you are entirely mistaken in them; for your happiness does not consist in the meat that perisheth, neither is it that sort of meat which Messiah will give you. Wherefore, ye ought not to labour so much for the meat that perisheth, mere animal food, which nourishes and delights the body only, as for the meat that endureth to everlasting life, divine knowledge and grace, which, by invigorating all the faculties of the soul, makes it incorruptible and immortal. Neither ought you to follow the Son of man, the Messiah, with a design to obtain the meat that perisheth, but in expectation of being fed with the meat that endureth to everlasting life; for it is that meat which he will give you. Labour not only for the meat which perisheth, but also for that meat which endureth to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you. For him hath the Father sealed: by the miracle of the loaves, God the Father shews you that he hath enabled and authorized me, the Son of man, to bless you with the meat enduring to everlasting life, the food of your souls. The epithet of Father is elegantly given to God in this passage, as it expresses the relation he stands in to the person who, in the precedent clause, is called the Son of man. The -metaphors of meat and drink being very familiar to the Jews, and frequently used in their writings to signify wisdom, knowledge, and grace, they might easily have understood what Jesus meant by the meat enduring to everlasting life. Nevertheless, they mistook him altogether, imagining that he spake of some delicious healthful animal food, which would make men immortal, and which was not to be had but under Messiah's government. Accordingly, being much affected with this exhortation, they asked him what they should do to work the works of God; they meant to erect the Messiah's kingdom, and obtain that excellent meat which, he said, God had authorized Messiah to give them; works which they imagined were prescribed them by God, and were most acceptable to him. The Jews, having their minds filled with the notion of the great empire which the Messiah was to erect, expected, no doubt, that Jesus would have bidden them first rise against the Romans, and vindicate their liberties; and then, by the terror of fire and sword, establish Messiah's authority in every country. Wherefore, when he told them that the whole work required of them towards erecting Messiah's kingdom, was, that they should believe on Messiah, whom he had now sent unto them, they were exceedingly offended, thinking that he could not be the Messiah promised in the law and the prophets. And some, more audacious than the rest, had the confidence to tell him, that since he pretended to be Messiah, and they pretended to believe on him as such, notwithstanding his character was entirely different from that of the great deliverer described in their sacred books, being so humble and peaceable, as to refuse the crown which of right pertained to Messiah, and which they had offered him, it would be proper that he should shew greater miracles than their law-giver had performed; otherwise, they should not be to blame, if, believing Moses and the prophets, they persisted in their antient faith concerning Messiah, and concerning the duty which they owed him. By extolling the miracle of the manna, by calling it bread from heaven, and by insinuating that it was Moses's miracle, the Jews endeavoured to disparage both Christ's mission and his miracle of the loaves, which they affected to despise as no miracle in comparison. It was only a single meal of terrestrial food at which nine or ten thousand had been fed. Whereas, Moses, with celestial food, fed the whole Jewish nation, in number upwards of two millions; and that not for a day, but during the space of forty years in the wilderness. Wherefore, as if Jesus had done no miracle at all, they said to him, What sign shewest thou? what dost thou work? Jesus replied, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; it was not Moses who
in antient times, gave you the mauna; neither was the manna bread from heaven, though it be so called by the Psalmist, on acconnt of the thing which it typified; for it dropped from the air only. But my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven: by the miracle of the loaves, my Father has pointed out to you the true, spiritual, heavenly bread, which he himself giveth unto you, of which the manua was only a symbolical representation, and which is sufficient to sustain, not a single nation only, but the whole world. For the bread of God is he which (is what) cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. The manna which dropped from the air, and kept those who made use of it only for a day, cannot be called the bread of God; but that is the bread of God which cometh down from God, and maketh the eater holy, happy, and immortal.
It is reasonable to imagine, that the people who had now heard our Lord, were of different characters. Many of them, no doubt, were obstinately perverse, heard him with prejudice, and wrested all his words. But others of them might be men of honest dispositions, who listened to his doctrine with pleasure, and were ready to obey it. This latter sort, therefore, having heard him describe the properties of the celestial bread, were greatly struck with the thoughts of it, and expressed an earnest desire to be fed with it always. [John vi. 34, 35.] Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: I am the bread of God which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world. that cometh to me for the sustenance of his life, shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst; because I am the bread of life, they who believe in me shall, in due time, be raised to the enjoyment of a life free from all the painful appetites and sensations which accompany mortality, and shall be made immortal and perfectly happy. Thus he assigned one of the many reasons why he called himself the bread of life. The conclusion from this part of his discourse was so evident, that he left his hearers to draw it for themselves. It was this: since matters are so, I am evidently greater than Moses, even in respect of that for which you extol hira most. He gave your fathers manna, which was a bodily food only, and nourished nothing but the natural life. But I am myself the bread of life and food of the soul, making men both immortal and happy.
He next turned his discourse to those of his hearers who did not profess the same disposition which the former had expressed. But I said unto you, that ye also have seen me and believe not ye ask me to shew you a sign that ye may see and believe me. Why, truly, I must tell you that ye have seen me, seen my character and mission in the miracles which I have performed already, that is, you have seen me perform many signs sufficient to convince you that I am the Messiah. Nevertheless, you do not believe that I am he, but reject me as an impostor. Therefore, your infidelity proceeds, not from want of evidence, as you pretend, but from the perverseness of your own disposition, which, perhaps, in time, may be overcome. For all that the Father giveth me shall come to me, that is, shall believe on me. This was fit matter of comfort to Jesus under the present infidelity of the Jews. By this, likewise, he encouraged his disciples, who had already believed on him. In the mean time, he invited those who were disposed to believe, from the consideration that he would not reject them, however low their circumstances might be, however vile they might appear in their own eyes, or however much they might have formerly injured him, by speaking evil of him and opposing him. And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. I came not to act according to the bent of human passions, which lead men to return whatever injuries are done them; and therefore I will not instantly leave off exhorting
those who at first reject me, neither will I inflict immediate punishment on them; but I will bear with them, and try all possible means to bring them to repentance, that they may be saved; for I am come to do the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will, which hath sent me that of all which he has given me I should lose nothing; but should raise it up again at the last day it is the will of the Father that every thing necessary to be done, both for the conversion of those who are disposed by him to believe, and for the preservation of those, in the paths of righteousness, who have already believed, that none of them whom he has given me may be lost by me; for they must all be presented before him safe at the last day. [John vi. 40.] And this, likewise, is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, seeth the character and mission of the Son in the miracles which he worketh, and in the other evidences wherewith his mission is attended, (as is evident from John vi. 36,) and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is the fixed determination of the Father to bestow everlasting life on all who truly believe in me. Wherefore, in order to that, I will raise him up at the last day. Thus Jesus placed the character of Messiah in a light very different from that in which his hearers had been accustomed to view it; and taught them that, instead of the temporal blessings which they expected from him, they were to receive none but spiritual benefits. Hence, as the dispositions of the greatest part of them were carnal, his doctrine offended them, especially his affirming that he was the bread of life, and that he came down from heaven. The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. 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? Was he not born into the world as other men are, and are we not well acquainted with his parents, and know him to be earth born? how then can he pretend to have come down from heaven? The Jews did not find fault with Jesus for insinuating that Messiah should come down from heaven; that was a point universally believed: but they were displeased because he said that he had come down from heaven a thing which they could by no means believe, in regard they were well acquainted with his father and mother. Jesus, therefore, answered, and said unto them, murmur not among yourselves: 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. Ye need not object my birth on earth, and the meanness of my relations, as things inconsistent with my heavenly extraction; for I assure you, that while you believe your teachers, who have greatly corrupted divine revelation, and entertain the prejudices wherewith they have filled your minds, and follow the sensual inclinations which have hitherto governed you, you cannot believe on me. No man can believe on me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him, that is, persuade him. Jesus added, ye need not be surprized when I tell you that no man can believe on Messiah, except the Father draw him for though you may imagine that all men will flock with great cheerfulness to him, and yield themselves his willing subjects, without any extraordinary means made use of to persuade them, the prophets insinuate the contrary, when they promise that, under the dispensation of Messiah, men shall enjoy the teaching of the Father in a far more eminent manner than under any precedent dispensation. 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. Before the advent of Christ, the Father spake unto the world concerning him by the prophets; and when he appeared in the human nature on earth, he demonstrated the truth of his mission by the testimony of John, and by voices from heaven, declaring him to be his beloved Son, and commanding all men to hear him. He did the same, likewise, by the doc