Jesus Preaching in Perea
( Originally Published 1915 )
JESUS DID not stay long in the village of Ephraim.
He went down the mountains to the river Jordan, crossed it, and began preaching in the land of Perea, going to the places where his seventy messengers had given the news of his coming.
Everywhere the people thronged in great crowds to see him and to hear him. The rich and the poor met in the crowd, the rulers and the common people, the Pharisees who were his enemies, and the publicans or tax-collectors who had been leading lives full of sin. There was a great desire among the people to listen to the Teacher and Prophet from Galilee, of whom they had heard so much, and whom they had not seen before. Many went to see him because they believed that he was the long-looked-for Christ, who was at last on his way to Jerusalem to sit on his throne and rule all the lands. So great were the crowds to see and hear Jesus that it is said that the thousands trod on each other around him.
While he was speaking in one place to a great multitude of people, a voice was heard from the throng.
"Teacher," cried out a man, "tell my brother to divide with me the property which belongs to our family."
This man supposed that Jesus, being the King of Israel, would rule in all matters of difference between the people. But Jesus answered him :
"Man, who made me a judge or a settler of disputes over your affairs?"
Then he added, "Take care to avoid the love of money; for no matter how rich one may be, his true life does not depend on what he owns."
And he gave to them the parable or story of "The Poor Rich Man." He said :
"There was once a rich man whose farm gave him very large crops. He began to ask himself, `What am I to do? I have no room to store the grain and fruits that have grown on my land. This is what I will do. I will pull down my old barns and build larger ones in place of them. There I shall store all the fruits from my orchards and the grain from my fields. And then I will say to myself, "Now you have plenty of good things stored up to last for many years; take your ease, eat, drink and have a good time."' But God said to him 'Fool! this very night your life is taken away; and who will have all that you have stored up?' So is it with everyone who lays up money for himself, instead of gaining the riches of God."
And Jesus said again to his disciples some of the things that he had already taught them in his great. "Sermon on the Mount"; for he often repeated the same teachings, over and over, until the disciples knew them by heart, so that after he should be taken from them, they in turn could tell them to others. At this time he said :
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life here on the earth, what you can get to eat, nor what you can get to wear. Life is something more than food and the body is more than its clothes. Look at the crows flying through the air! They neither sow nor reap; they have no storehouse nor barns; and yet God gives them food. How much more are you worth to God than are the birds? And however anxious you may be, can you add one minute to your life? And if you cannot do even this, why be anxious about other matters?
"Look at the lilies, and see how they grow. They neither spin nor weave; and yet, I tell you, even King Solomon in all his splendor was not dressed like one of these. Now, if God so beautifully clothes the grass in the field, which blooms today, and tomorrow will be thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O men, who trust God so little?
"So do not worry about food and drink and clothes; these are the things for which the nations of the world who know not God are seeking after, and you should not wish to be like them. Besides, your Father in heaven knows that you have need of these common things. Only seek the kingdom of God, and your heavenly Father will see to it that you have these things. Do not be afraid, my little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you a place in his kingdom."
At this time some people brought to Jesus the news that Pilate, the Roman governor, had killed in the Temple some men from Galilee, while they were worshipping at the altar, so that their blood was poured out with the blood of their offerings. This act of the governor had terribly shocked the people.
"Do you suppose," said Jesus, "that because those Galileans suffered these things, that they were worse sinners than the rest of those living in Galilee? I tell you, no; unless you turn from your sins and seek God, you will all perish as they did.
" Then, too, think of those eighteen men in Siloam, just outside of Jerusalem; those men on whom the tower fell and killed them all; do you suppose that they had been worse than all the other people living in Jerusalem ?
No, I tell you; unless you turn to God, you will all perish as they did."
Then Jesus gave to the people the parable of "The Fruitless Fig Tree." He said
"A man who had a fig tree growing in his garden came at the time when figs were ripe, looking for fruit, but found on it not a single fig. So he said to the gardener, `Here I have come for three years looking for fruit on this tree, without finding any. Cut it down! Why should it take up room and rob the soil?' But the gardener answered him, `O please, sir, leave it one year more. I will dig around it and enrich the soil; then it may bear fruit next year. If it does not, then let it be cut down.' "