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How Jesus fled from Capernaum, and the Galileans at first fell away from him;by@edwinabbott

How Jesus fled from Capernaum, and the Galileans at first fell away from him;

by Edwin A. AbbottOctober 25th, 2023
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When I came into Capernaum, I thought to have heard all men rejoicing for that Jesus had not been taken by the Thracians. But, go where I might, I found it quite contrary; for all men were wroth with him for departing. Barabbas was there, and James the son of Judas of Galilee, and many others of the Galilean sect; but I could not have much speech with them, so hot was their anger against Jesus; but on the morrow, lighting upon my cousin Baruch, I questioned him touching that which had happened, and he said that “the Prophet had turned from him all the hearts of the Galileans because he would not raise up Israel to avenge the death of John.” Then I asked how soon they had received tidings of John’s death, and he said “Yesterday a little before sunset.” I marvelled how the news should have been brought past the Thracians; for, said I, “they stayed all travellers from Tiberias, neither suffered they any to pass them.” But Baruch said that James the son of Judas had contrived that lights should be held up each night from Gamala on the other side of the lake, to the intent that the Galileans in Capernaum might know how John fared; and one light should signify that the Prophet lived, but two lights that he lived not. “And,” said [pg 196]Baruch, “yestereven before the sun went down, many of the Galileans had gathered together by twos or by threes upon the strand to watch for the signal. And first one light appeared, as was usual; and the men said that it was well, for they had one more day wherein to labour for the Prophet’s deliverance. But then Barabbas cried out that there were two lights; and at first no man would believe it, for (because the sun had not yet set) the lights were not plain to see. But presently Judas also saw the second light, and then they all saw it. Hereupon arose a loud lamentation, and the news spread at once through all the city, and the women began to wail, and the men rushed forth into the streets, and there was a great gathering. Presently with one consent the multitude ran together to the door of the house where Jesus lodged; and first Barabbas went in to ask Jesus to be leader of the host, but soon he came forth again, saying that Jesus would not. Then went in James the son of Judas, saying that he would beseech Jesus in the name of his father, who had fought and died for Israel. With James there went in also three others of the eldest and most reverend of the Galileans, and they remained in the house longer, so that the people thought they had prevailed upon Jesus; and there was a great expectation. But when the elders came out, they showed by their countenances that they had not prevailed. “Then there was much clamour; and the greater part cried out that they would not depart from before the threshold of Jesus till they had persuaded Jesus to be leader of the host; and some cried out to draw him forth by violence and to make him leader of the host. But immediately the door opened, and Jesus himself came [pg 197]forth. Then they no more talked of violence; but Barabbas and others of the armed men held out their right hands to him, and promised to give up their lives for his sake if he would be their king. Others fell down on their knees before him; and some caught him by the garment to have stayed him. Only James the son of Judas said nothing; and it seemed to me,” said Baruch, “that at the sight of James, Jesus was more moved than by all the rest. Howbeit he halted not, but moved straight down to the beach. “Then when the people perceived that he would leave them, they cried out even louder than before, and threw dust in the air and poured it upon their heads; and some threw themselves on the ground in his path for to stay him; and some also spared not threatening. But Jesus took no heed thereof, but went still onward with his eyes fast set upon the ground; till one thrust himself before the rest, crying aloud and saying that they would do more for John dead than for Jesus living, and that it was better for a man to lose his life, as John the Prophet had lost it, than to save his life as Jesus desired to save it. Thereat Jesus stayed for an instant, and lifted his eyes from the ground; howbeit not in anger, but rather as he is wont to do (for thou well knowest his manner) whensoever he heareth a Voice of God. But when all the people shouted again, supposing that he had been bent from his purpose, then Jesus beckoned with the hand, and when he had commanded silence, he spake briefly unto them, and said the hour was not yet come; and so he departed.

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Philochristus: Memoirs of a Disciple of the Lord by Edwin Abbott Abbott is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. How Jesus fled from Capernaum, and the Galileans at first fell away from him; and concerning the levy in Galilee; and of the visit of Jesus to Nazareth.

How Jesus fled from Capernaum, and the Galileans at first fell away from him; and concerning the levy in Galilee; and of the visit of Jesus to Nazareth.

When I came into Capernaum, I thought to have heard all men rejoicing for that Jesus had not been taken by the Thracians. But, go where I might, I found it quite contrary; for all men were wroth with him for departing. Barabbas was there, and James the son of Judas of Galilee, and many others of the Galilean sect; but I could not have much speech with them, so hot was their anger against Jesus; but on the morrow, lighting upon my cousin Baruch, I questioned him touching that which had happened, and he said that “the Prophet had turned from him all the hearts of the Galileans because he would not raise up Israel to avenge the death of John.”


Then I asked how soon they had received tidings of John’s death, and he said “Yesterday a little before sunset.” I marvelled how the news should have been brought past the Thracians; for, said I, “they stayed all travellers from Tiberias, neither suffered they any to pass them.” But Baruch said that James the son of Judas had contrived that lights should be held up each night from Gamala on the other side of the lake, to the intent that the Galileans in Capernaum might know how John fared; and one light should signify that the Prophet lived, but two lights that he lived not. “And,” said Baruch, “yestereven before the sun went down, many of the Galileans had gathered together by twos or by threes upon the strand to watch for the signal. And first one light appeared, as was usual; and the men said that it was well, for they had one more day wherein to labour for the Prophet’s deliverance. But then Barabbas cried out that there were two lights; and at first no man would believe it, for (because the sun had not yet set) the lights were not plain to see. But presently Judas also saw the second light, and then they all saw it. Hereupon arose a loud lamentation, and the news spread at once through all the city, and the women began to wail, and the men rushed forth into the streets, and there was a great gathering. Presently with one consent the multitude ran together to the door of the house where Jesus lodged; and first Barabbas went in to ask Jesus to be leader of the host, but soon he came forth again, saying that Jesus would not. Then went in James the son of Judas, saying that he would beseech Jesus in the name of his father, who had fought and died for Israel. With James there went in also three others of the eldest and most reverend of the Galileans, and they remained in the house longer, so that the people thought they had prevailed upon Jesus; and there was a great expectation. But when the elders came out, they showed by their countenances that they had not prevailed.


“Then there was much clamour; and the greater part cried out that they would not depart from before the threshold of Jesus till they had persuaded Jesus to be leader of the host; and some cried out to draw him forth by violence and to make him leader of the host. But immediately the door opened, and Jesus himself came forth. Then they no more talked of violence; but Barabbas and others of the armed men held out their right hands to him, and promised to give up their lives for his sake if he would be their king. Others fell down on their knees before him; and some caught him by the garment to have stayed him. Only James the son of Judas said nothing; and it seemed to me,” said Baruch, “that at the sight of James, Jesus was more moved than by all the rest. Howbeit he halted not, but moved straight down to the beach.


“Then when the people perceived that he would leave them, they cried out even louder than before, and threw dust in the air and poured it upon their heads; and some threw themselves on the ground in his path for to stay him; and some also spared not threatening. But Jesus took no heed thereof, but went still onward with his eyes fast set upon the ground; till one thrust himself before the rest, crying aloud and saying that they would do more for John dead than for Jesus living, and that it was better for a man to lose his life, as John the Prophet had lost it, than to save his life as Jesus desired to save it. Thereat Jesus stayed for an instant, and lifted his eyes from the ground; howbeit not in anger, but rather as he is wont to do (for thou well knowest his manner) whensoever he heareth a Voice of God. But when all the people shouted again, supposing that he had been bent from his purpose, then Jesus beckoned with the hand, and when he had commanded silence, he spake briefly unto them, and said the hour was not yet come; and so he departed.


“Now,” said Baruch, “while Jesus was speaking to the people, and even afterwards while he was in the sight of the people, it was a marvellous thing to see how still they were; for he hath a power over the hearts of the people so that when he is present no one dare move his tongue against him. But as soon as the boat had rowed away and they could see him no more, straightway Barabbas and his friends began to curse and swear; and they said that they would never again ask aught of Jesus, nor place any faith in him. James the son of Judas said little, but his mind seemed to be the same. For this cause therefore all the Galileans are incensed against Jesus; insomuch that, whereas they had begun to rate him far above John, they now esteem the memory of John more than the presence of Jesus.”


After this, Baruch began to advise me to sever myself from Jesus and to return to my home at Sepphoris, for, said he, “He hath the Pharisees for his enemies; and the richer sort are also estranged from him; and it is commonly reported that Herod the Tetrarch seeketh to slay him with the sword; and now behold, even the Galileans are turned away from him. Now therefore be persuaded, and come back with me to the house of my father Manasseh, and tarry with us for the night, and refresh thyself, and on the morrow set forth for thy home.”


But I made him some fair answer and bade him farewell; for I had determined with myself to take ship that same night, to have sailed over to the other side. But on the morrow, I thought it good (albeit perchance I erred therein) to return first to my mother and to relate to her all that had come to pass, and to bid her farewell: for all men now accounted of Jesus as of one that must either fight or perish: for it could not be that he should live and be honoured of men, and yet not avenge the death of John the Prophet. Wherefore, before I joined myself to a cause that seemed so full of peril, I desired to take leave of my mother.


On the fourth day after I was come to Sepphoris, word was brought that Jesus of Nazareth was gathering the people for battle, and that he was making a levy throughout all Galilee, and for this intent had chosen out twelve of his disciples, whom also he called Apostles; and these he had sent out by two and two through the several villages and towns. Jonathan the son of Ezra brought me these tidings; and I was with him next day, walking on the road between Sepphoris and Capernaum, when we met Simon Peter and Andrew.


They told us that they had been sent forth by Jesus to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven, and to drive out unclean spirits, and to heal diseases. They came without wallet, or food, or money, trusting to the alms of the people. But when we questioned them as to the Kingdom, and whether indeed it was to be achieved by force of arms (as the rumour went), or by signs such as fire from heaven and the like: concerning this they knew nothing. As for the healing of diseases, we saw with our own eyes that they had this power; for they healed certain that were sick in Sepphoris, and even cast out three or four unclean spirits.


When we had bidden farewell to Simon Peter and Andrew (for they were in haste, passing from place to place like messengers of war) then Jonathan turned to me and said, “Whoso pulleth down his old house and doth not first build for himself a new one, is he wise?” I replied, “Nay.” Then said Jonathan, “Lo, Jesus of Nazareth pulleth down the house of the Law; tell me therefore, what buildeth he in the place thereof?” I was silent, for I knew not what to answer; but at last I said that Jesus spake of a certain new Spirit which would purify the children of men and enable them to attain righteousness without the Law. But Jonathan said, “Nay but, my son, can a Spirit tell each man of the children of men, from day to day, what meat he shall eat and what he shall not eat; and when to fast and when to feast; and what to do on the Sabbath day, and what not to do? Now if the Spirit shall tell each man different things, shall there not be a confusion as of Babel? But if the same things, then why should not these things be written in a law? Moreover who shall tell which man hath the Spirit and which hath not? For all will say they have it.” Then I said that I could not answer those questions, but that I trusted in Jesus of Nazareth as in one sent from God, who could not deceive, neither be deceived, for that his deeds and words were those of a prophet. After this manner I answered; but Jonathan said nothing, but only shook his head a little, as one that doubted more than he hoped.


Now on the third day after this discourse (it being, as I remember, the month called Adar, a little after the Feast of Purim), my mother being now completely recovered of her disease, I determined to return to Jesus. For tidings came in daily that all Galilee was ready to rise up when he gave the sign, and I was unwilling to show myself a laggard if matters should come to smiting with the sword. But every day I heard that Jesus was more and more beloved of the people. For all (save only the Pharisees) were now drawn towards him, in that he seemed to be bent upon avenging John the Prophet. And his fame began to be noised abroad through all the country of Galilee and the parts beyond, insomuch that many that had not heard of him before, began to cast in their minds what he could be. And some said that he was Elias. For the common folk, yea, and the Scribes also, were ever expecting that Elias should be sent down to earth, according to the saying of the prophet Malachi. But others said that he was John the Baptist risen from the dead; and this saying was commonly reported, especially among the Gentiles which border on the land of Galilee and in Decapolis, insomuch that Herod himself heard of the rumour, and feared lest it might be even so. But whatsoever men reported about Jesus, in any case his fame waxed very great at this time. For before John was beheaded, the fame of John prevailed over the fame of Jesus in the minds of many; but now all alike, even the disciples of John, looked to Jesus as the avenger of John and as the only Deliverer; insomuch that, at this time, Jesus had both his own fame and also the fame of John the Prophet.


I found Jesus in a village about seven miles to the north of Galilee. But when I had saluted him, I noted that he was marvellously changed; yet not so that he was austere, nor even very sad; yet still changed withal, albeit I knew not how nor why. But I had expected that he should have rebuked me for that I had been so long absent, neither had I come to him with all speed so as to be present when first he made the levy in Galilee. Howbeit, he reproved me not; but questioned me kindly touching my mother’s health, and rejoiced when I gave him a good report: but after wards he gave himself again to meditation. When I was come forth from his presence, I asked the disciples concerning the state of Galilee, and what number of men were ready to fight on our side, and when the levy should be made, and the hour for battle should be at hand. But the rest were silent, and Judas alone made answer, that concerning these things the disciples knew nothing; yea, and from certain signs he conjectured that even to Jesus himself the hour of uprising was not yet known, no, nor yet the manner of it, nor the means for it.


“But,” said I, “did not the people in Galilee receive you when ye went forth to proclaim the Redemption?” “Yes truly did they,” said Judas, “but all of the baser sort, and the poor folk which have naught of their own; wherefore they be always ready for warfare.” “And what answer made Jesus to your report?” asked I. “Truly a marvellous answer,” replied Judas, “for when we said that only the poor and simple folk received us, he rejoiced thereat, and thanked God that it was even so.” “Nay,” said I, “that were hard to believe.” “But yea,” said Judas; “for his words were these, that he thanked the Father, because He had hidden these things from the wise and the prudent, and revealed them unto babes.” Then I looked at Nathanael to know whether it was even so, and Nathanael nodded his head, as if to say that it was so.


But Judas continued: “This also is not the worst. For he hath not only turned from him the Galileans; but besides, since our flight, whereas there is special need to be busy and striving, behold, these ten days, he museth and meditateth, and ceaseth not. Neither are his musings touching war, nor vengeance, nor military matters; but he broodeth over prophesyings and abstruse matters. And a stranger might go near to think that he had conceived an imagination that, because the Lord hath suffered John the son of Zachariah to die, therefore he must needs die also. But unless he be speedily raised up from this humour of dejection, all is lost.”


He said no more at this time, for Jesus came forth into the court-yard where we sat together around the fountain; and straightway we held our peace. Then we fell to discourse of John the son of Zachariah, how great things he had prophesied, and how we had hoped that he should have triumphed with us in the Kingdom of God; and one likened John unto Elias the prophet, saying that he spake in the spirit of Elias, and that many of the common people would have it that this John was indeed Elias risen from the dead. Then another spake of the love in which the disciples of John the son of Zachariah still had their Master, and how, though he were dead, yet did they still cleave to him in their hearts; insomuch that his spirit seemed to rule over them yet more than his living presence. But another said that John the Prophet could not be Elias: for was it possible that the Lord should suffer such an one as Elias to be slain? And to him Nathanael replied that Isaiah the Prophet was sawn asunder, and wherefore not also Elias? Then Thomas, one of the Twelve, lamented for John the son of Zachariah, because he had been thus swallowed up by destruction, neither had he left children to stand in his stead upon the earth; “for they that die, leaving children behind them,” said he (quoting a certain proverb of my countrymen) “die not, but only fall asleep: but they that die and leave no children, these die indeed.” To this John the son of Zebedee made answer that whoso leaveth behind him children perverse and alien from his own nature, he liveth not, for all his children; but whoso leaveth behind him disciples and followers like unto himself and imbued with his own doctrine, such an one liveth, yea even though he be childless and lie in the grave. Hereat methought Jesus was strangely moved: howbeit he sat still where he was, and spake never a word.


But presently mention was made of Jonah the Prophet, how that he also was an exile and fled from his country, even as our Master had been forced to flee. Then Judas said that Jonah had done ill to flee, for that none could flee from the presence of the All-seeing, the Maker of all things, “for,” said he, “the son of man, while he liveth, is like unto a horse tethered by a cord which suffereth him to graze, but resteth still in the hand of his owner.” Thereon some one took up the discourse and said, “Nay, but rather the cord is a cord of love, and the owner is not an owner, but a father;” and another disciple quoted the words of the psalmist, “By thee have I been holden up from the womb.” Thereat Jesus smiled as if to say that that disciple had spoken well, and he bade John repeat the rest of that same psalm. But when John came, in his repeating, to the words, “O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works,” then did Jesus seem somewhat moved. But afterwards when John came unto the words, “Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt give me life again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth;” then indeed the face of Jesus kindled with a marvellous light, and he bade John cease. But he himself sat, still musing, and his lips moved like unto one repeating the same words over and over again: “Thou shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.”


It came to pass that, about two or three weeks after these things we came to Nazareth, where Jesus was born. Now Jesus had not gone to the place these many days. Some said that he came thither now for to shew unto his mother and his brethren (for his father had been long since dead) that he was sound in health and not possessed nor distraught. Others said that he desired to cause his brethren to believe in him; for at this time they believed not. But others said that he desired to bid farewell to his mother before he went forth to deliver Israel; and to this most people agreed.


But when we came to Nazareth, we marvelled that there was so little faith in the men of that place. For they thronged us, as in the other towns, and they were fain to look on Jesus, and called him by familiar names (some being playmates and schoolfellows, some his kinsfolk, and almost all of the number of his acquaintances); moreover they were eager that he should do some mighty work before their eyes; yet could they not believe that he was a prophet, much less that he was the Redeemer of Israel. Neither would they believe that he could drive out evil spirits or heal diseases.


Hence it came to pass that Jesus could do no mighty work there. And when they brought unto him many that were sick, and possessed with evil spirits, he looked on them, but perceived that they had not faith to be healed. Wherefore he healed none of them; save only that he laid his hands on a few that were sick of slight diseases and healed them, and even these not without labour. For the same things happened as once in another city, where a man was healed that had been afflicted with a deaf and dumb spirit. For there, because of the man’s want of understanding and lack of faith, Jesus took him apart from the people (for there was a great stir of traffic and of men coming and going), and made signs to him, at the same time touching his ears and his tongue; and he also spake very loud in the man’s ears, not in Greek, but in the language of the Jews (which is used by the poorer people), saying Ephphatha. In this way the man was healed, but only with labour and by degrees. And so it was now, but even worse. Wherefore Jesus himself marvelled at their unbelief.


Now the cause of their unbelief was that they knew him from a child. For, said one of them to Jesus himself in my hearing, “Behold, these thirty years we have known thy goings out and thy comings in; we have also sat by thy side in the school, and whatsoever thou didst learn we also learned; thou didst play with us at our games round the well; we have seen thee a-working in thy father’s house; our couches and our seats are made by thy hand; and shall we call thee the Redeemer of Israel?” Moreover another bade him come back to the carpenter’s shop; and a third cried out that he had changed trades for the worse, for the Redemption of Israel was a dangerous trade. All these were moved by jealousy, and spake out of the malignity of their hearts.


But a certain old Scribe, Josiah the son of Hezekiah, (which also was the chief Scribe of the place, and had known Jesus and loved him of a child) coming forth from his house, met him and fell upon his neck, and blessed him, and embraced him; and then, when he had looked more narrowly at his countenance, he began to mourn over him as if he were his own son, lamenting for that the bloom of beauty had departed from the countenance of Jesus: “for behold,” said he, “sorrow hath driven out the former brightness of thy joy. Thou wast as the dew of the morning, O my lamb, but art become as the parched ground at noontide. Behold, O my lamb, around thy cradle mercy and righteousness joined hands together; and when thou didst sport amid this valley, lo, truth and peace went ever with thee, and thou didst still hold converse with the angels of God? Unfit art thou, O my gentle one, to do battle with the wickedness of wicked men, and with the cunning arts of the adversary. Verily thou wilt be led as a lamb to the slaughter. Hast thou fathomed the depth of the pit of destruction? Or dost thou know by experience the snares of deceit? Return, O thou that art the apple of mine eye, while there is yet time, lest evil befal thee. For I know that danger compasseth thee around, and if thou shalt go hence, thou wilt come back to me no more.”


Jesus spake comfortably to the old man and consoled him; and while he consoled him, his face shone with joy and love; insomuch that the old man also rejoiced, saying that Jesus appeared now again as he appeared in the days of his youth. But still he besought Jesus to return and to avoid contention with the Pharisees, saying that “no vessel but peace can hold blessing.” But Jesus answered him kindly and bade him farewell. And so we departed from Nazareth.


When we were now come to the top of the hill which looketh down on Nazareth, we rested a little to recover our breath. Now Jesus was sorrowful because of the unbelief of his kinsfolk and acquaintance, and he was silent (as was his wont when sorrow fell upon him), musing and meditating, and, as it seemed to me, praying; even as one striving to unloose the knot of some hard saying or riddle. For the unbelief of his kinsfolk had filled him with astonishment. While he thus mused, we conversed together, and Judas said that it was an error to have come to Nazareth. “For who knoweth not,” said he, “that a prophet hath no honour in his own country? For a prophet known is a prophet despised.”


But John the son of Zebedee replied that it was a strange thing that the acquaintance and kinsfolk of Jesus should suppose that they knew the mind and spirit of Jesus because they knew his outward shape and mien and manner of speech: “For his mind and spirit pass knowledge; and the more a man knoweth thereof, the more a man must needs wonder thereat.” So spake John; but Judas jested at him, and said that John spake as a babe and as a simple clown, knowing nothing of the world. “Yet,” added he, looking up at Jesus, “it is strange methinks that even our Master should also wonder at that which is in no way wonderful.” Then John rebuked him and said, “Knowest thou not the saying of our Master, ‘They that wonder shall reign, and they that reign shall rest?’ Wherefore who knoweth whether it may not be that even our Master day by day learneth some new revelation from God whereat to wonder? For whoso increaseth not diminisheth.”


When I heard these words I looked at Jesus, and behold, it was even as John said. For the sorrow that rested upon his countenance because of the unbelief of his kinsfolk seemed to be passing away, and to be revealing beneath it an exceeding joy, as of one learning some hidden mystery, or hearing some glad tidings. And there came into my mind the words of Barabbas (which were contrary to the words of John), how he said that Jesus did everything with forethought; and behold, both the words of John seemed true and also the words of Barabbas; but the words of John seemed the truer. For though Jesus did naught in haste nor in fear nor perturbation; yet was he not like unto one that seeth all things to come, great and small alike, marked out for him as in a chart, nor like unto him which trusteth in the strength of his own unchangeable will. Nay rather, even as a little child hangeth upon the bosom of his mother and hath no will of his own, even so did Jesus continually look upon earth and heaven and on the deeds and words of men; and, look where he might, he discerned in all things some new knowledge, some revelation concerning the will of the Father in heaven; insomuch that no day passed, yea no hour of the day, but Jesus in this wise held communion with his Father.


By this time Jesus was arisen from his seat, and we ceased conversing together when he drew nigh. But Judas, desirous to say somewhat (so as to hide what he had been saying), pointed down to the white houses of Nazareth and to the fields and orchards which compass the city round in the bottom of the valley; and he said to Jesus that the place was exceeding beautiful, like unto a handful of pearls in a goblet of emerald. But Jesus looked narrowly at Judas for an instant, and then down at Nazareth, and then at Judas again; and the sounds of the bleating of the goats and the piping of the shepherds came up to our ears, and the laughter of the children as they sported round the well. When Jesus heard these things, he sighed, and cast his eyes down again on Nazareth, even on the place of his nativity; and he looked at it for a long while very lovingly. Then he turned away his head and departed, and he saw it no more.



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This book is part of the public domain. Edwin Abbott Abbott (2015). Philochristus: Memoirs of a Disciple of the Lord. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/48843/pg48843-images.html


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