Leaving Capernaum Jesus goes, accompanied by Matt. xiii. 53-58.
His disciples, into lower Galilee, and again visits Naza- Mark vi. 1-6.
reth. Rejected here the second time, He goes about Matt. ix. 35-38.
through the cities and villages in that region. During Makk vi. 7-11.
this circuit He commissions and sends out the Twelve. Matt. X. 1-42.
In their absence He continues His work. About this Luke ix. 1-9.
time John is beheaded in prison, and the news of his Matt. xiv. 1-12.
death is brought to Jesus by some of John's disciples. Maek vi. 14-30. Herod now hears of Christ, and expresses a desire to see Him. Jesus returns to Capernaum, and the Twelve gather to Him there.
In the order of events we follow Mark : " And He went out from thence, and came into His own country; and His disciples follow Him." The place of departure was the house of Jairus, (Meyer,) or Capernaum and its neighborhood, (Alexander.) Matthew (xiii. 53-58) narrates this visit to Nazareth immediately after his account of the teaching in parables: " And it came to pass when Jesus had finished these parables He departed thence. And when He was come into His own country," &c. Here it is not said that this coming to Nazareth was immediately subsequent to the departure after the parables were spoken. That departure was not to Nazareth, but across the sea to Gergesa, (Mark iv. 35.) We must then place between vs. 53 and 54 the healing of the demoniacs, of Jairus's daughter, of the woman with issue of blood, of the two blind men, and of the dumb possessed. All these may have taken place on the day of the return from Gergesa; and thus, between the teaching in parables and the departure to Nazareth, only an interval of two days have elapsed.
The grounds upon which this visit at Nazareth is to be distinguished from the earlier one mentioned by Luke, (iv. 16,) have been already stated. The circumstances under which He now returns to His early home are very unlike those of that former visit. Then He had but newly begun His public labors, and was comparatively but little knowTn ; and great surprise was felt that one, who only a few months before had been a resident among them, should make so high pretensions. How could He, whom they had known from childhood up, be a prophet, and possess such powers? Now His fame was spread throughout the whole land, and His character as a prophet was established. Crowds followed Him from all parts of the land. His miracles were familiar to all. He had, in the immediate neighborhood of Nazareth, raised a dead man to life. But His now enlarged and confirmed reputation did not weaken the feeling of surprise. All His life was familiar to them, and they could not believe that He was in aught greater than themselves. Jesus, therefore, could now well, and even with greater emphasis, repeat the proverb, " A prophet is not without honor but in his own country;" adding, with reference to the continued unbelief of His brethren, " and among his own kin, and in his owTn house." (See John vii. 5.) The Nazarenes do not now take any violent measures against Him, though " offended at Him;" and after teaching in the synagogue and healing a few sick folk, He made a circuit through the adjacent villages, (Mark vi. 6.) It is probable that Matthew (ix. 35-38) has reference to this circuit.
That the sending of the Twelve upon their mission was during this journey, appears from the order in which it stands in all the Synoptists. Matthew (ix. 35, &q.) connects it with the journey following the healing of the blind men, and the dumb possessed; and Mark (vi. 7) with that following the departure from Nazareth. Luke does not mention this visit at Nazareth, but narrates the sending of the Twelve (ix. 1-6) directly after the healing of Jairus's daughter.1 How long this circuit continued, or at what point in it the Twelve were sent out, we have no data to determine. That it was extensive and occupied a considerable period may be fairly inferred from Matthew's language, (ix. 35,) that " He went about all the cities and villages." Nor can we tell from what place they were sent. Greswell (ii. 342) supposes it to have been Capernaum, and that therefore the sending was just at the close of the circuit. " It is certain that after their mission they rejoined our Lord at Capernaum; and it is not probable that they would be sent from one quarter and be expected to rejoin Him at another." On the other hand, Alford observes that no fixed locality can be assigned to their commission. " It was not delivered at Capernaum, but on a journey." The view of KrafFt, (99,) that they were sent from Jerusalem when Jesus was at the feast of Tabernacles (John v. 1) is in every point of view unsatisfactory, and is refuted by the fact that the theatre of His activity was now Galilee, and not Judea.
The work of the Twelve in their mission corresponded in its main features to that of the Lord. He was still engaged in going " round about the villages teaching;" " entering into all the synagogues, and healing every sickness and every disease amongst the people."
1 So Tischendorf, Robinson, Alford, Greswell.
The work of the apostles must be correspondent to this. They also must preach the Gospel, and illustrate its nature by their works. This they were directed to do, (Matt. x. 1-8,) and this they did. " And they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them," (Mark vi. 12, 13 ; see Luke ix. 6.)
Thus their work had the same general character as that of Jesus. It was not so much to draw attention to Jesus personally, and to proclaim Him the Messiah, as to announce the approach of the M'essianic kingdom, and to teach men its nature^ and to prove it at hand by their miracles. If men had faith in the words of the apostles, they would soon come to Jesus to be taught by Him. The powers given them were large, and perhaps special to this mission. There is no mention that up to this time they had wrought any miracles, nor that they did so after their return, so long as Jesus was with them.1
It is apparent upon its face that the commission of the Twelve had a larger scope than these mere temporary labors.8 It had prospective reference to their larger work after the Lord's ascension; and also in some measure to all the missionary work of the Church till His return. Some directions in it are plainly temporary, as those not to visit the heathen or Samaritans, and to make no provision of money or clothing. The prediction of persecutions and scourgings, on the other hand, had, at this time, no fulfilment.
Where did the Twelve labor ? Luke (ix. 6) says, "they departed and went through the towns." It has been supposed that this expression " towns," KWjutas, may be used here in opposition to cities, implying that the Twelve visited only the smaller places.
1 See, however, Matt. xvii. 19, 20, which implies that the power to work miracles was not withdrawn, but was dependent upon their faith.
2 Jones, Notes on Scripture, 100; Stier, ii. 2.
But the same expression is used of the Lord Himself, (Mark vi. 6.) Probably their labors were confined to Galilee. They were forbidden to enter Samaria, and it is not likely that they would enter Judea, from which the Lord was excluded. As they journeyed two by two, this would enable them to visit many towns in a few days. How long they were absent upon their mission does not appear. Wieseler, followed by Tischendorf, would limit it to a single day; Ellicott to two days; Krafft extends it to several months; Greswell makes them to have been sent upon their ministry in February, and to have returned in March, an interval of one or two months. That they were engaged in their labors several weeks at least, is plainly implied in the terms of their commission; for although this, as we have seen, had reference also to their future ministry, it had more immediate reference to the present. This is confirmed by the brief statements of their actual labors. (See Luke ix. 6 ; Mark vi. 12, 13, and 30.)
The commission of the Twelve is remarkable, as containing a much fuller declaration respecting the hatred they should meet, and the persecutions they should suffer, than wras at any other time uttered by the Lord previous to the transfiguration. This must have been in striking contrast to the opinions the apostles were yet cherishing respecting the reign of the Messiah, and His general reception by the people. By speaking of their sufferings and persecutions, He announced, by implication, His own sufferings and rejection, although it is apparent that they did not understand the import of His words.
That Jesus continued His own personal labors during the absence of the Twelve, appears from Matthew, (xi. 1,) that "when He had made an end of commanding His Twelve disciples, He departed thence to teach and preach in their
cities." In these journeyings He was probably accompanied by other disciples, doubtless by some of those who were afterward chosen among the Seventy, (Luke x. 1;) and perhaps also by the women who had before been with Him. If, as is probable, He had given direction to the Twelve to rejoin Him at Capernaum at some fixed time, He would now so direct His own course as to meet them there.
It was during the mission of the Twelve that the death of John the Baptist occurred. The news of it seems to have been communicated to Jesus by John's disciples, (Matt. xiv. 12,) but this must have been some days at least after the event. As the death of John had an important bearing upon the Lord's work, and to a great degree determined its subsequent character, we must examine the data that define the time of its occurrence.
The chief datum in this inquiry is the statement of John (vi. 4) that a Passover took place a little after the feeding of the five thousand. This Passover, the third of our Lord's ministry, wras, as we have seen, that of 782, and fell on the 17th April. The death of John was then a few days before this. The exact date we cannot tell, as we do not know how long it preceded the feeding of the five thousand, nor how long this feeding preceded the Passover. If John wTas beheaded at Machaerus, on the southern border of Perea, some days must have elapsed ere his disciples could bury his body, and come to inform Jesus. So far as these data go we may place his death at the latter part of March, or the beginning of April, 782.
Wieseler (292) has attempted to reach a more definite result from the statements of Matt. xiv. 6, and Mark vi. 21, that Herod gave order for the death of John at a feast held upon his birthday. The word translated " birthday," yeveo-ia, is generally interpreted in its later and New Testament usage, as meaning birthday festivals, or celebrations.1
1 Robinson, Meyer, Olshausen.
If it be so used here by the Evangelists, it gives us no chronological datum, since we do not know the time of Herod's birth. Wieseler, however, after Grotius and others, would make it refer to the feast kept in honor of his accession to the throne, and in this way obtains a known date, the 8th Nisan, or 11th April, 782, as the day of John's execution. Greswell, (iii. 425,) who also supposes that Herod was celebrating his accession, on the grounds that "the day of a king's accession was both considered and celebrated as his birthday ;" and that the magnificence of his entertainment (Mark vi. 21) shows that he was commemorating something more than his birthday, reaches the result that John was put to death about the feast of Tabernacles, Sept. 22, 781.l Still this interpretation of "birthday " is too uncertain to allow any great weight to be placed upon it.2
We rest, then, in the conclusion that John was beheaded in the latter part of March, or beginning of April, 782.3
From Mark vi. 13, 14, and Luke ix. 6, 7, it appears that it was not till after the death of John that Herod heard of Jesus. But how could He have been so long active in one of Herod's provinces, followed by great multitudes, performing daily the most wonderful works, and His residence only a very few miles from Tiberias, where the king kept his court, and yet His fame never reach the royal ears ?
1 Teschendorf, xxxiii., agrees with Wieseler j so Ebrard, 186 ; Ellicott, 195.
2 See Alford and Meyer, notes on Matt. xiv. 6.
3 So Giider, Herzog Encyc, vi. 770 ; Lichtenstein, 252 ; Lange. Winer, i. 590, finds no satisfactory data to determine the time of his imprisonment, or execution.
The most ready explanation would be, that during His ministry Herod had been absent from Galilee, either on a visit at Rome, whither he went about this time; or had been engaged in hostilities with Aretas, and thus remained in good measure ignorant of what was taking place.1 There is much probability in this supposition of Herod's absence, but decisive proof is wanting. If, however, he were in Galilee during this period, his ignorance of Jesus finds a sufficient explanation in his own personal character. We know from Josephus that he was a lover of ease and pleasure ; and a man who occupied himself more in erecting fine buildings than in public affairs. Like all the Herodian family, he treated the Jewish religion with respect as a matter of policy, but did not interfere with ecclesiastical matters, except he saw movements dangerous to the public peace. The disputes of contending sects, or the theological discussions of the Rabbins, had no attractions for him; and provided the Jews were orderly and peaceful, he cared not to interfere in their religious quarrels. John's ministry continued a considerable period without any interruption on his part; and when he at last imprisoned him, it was on personal, not on political or religious grounds. Hence we can understand how Jesus might prosecute His work in Galilee, in the vicinity of Herod, without the latter learning any thing definite respecting it, or having his attention specially directed to His character or designs. As a new religious teacher, the founder of a new sect, an opponent of the Pharisees and scribes, the matter was unimportant, and beneath the royal notice. Unless the public tranquillity was actually disturbed, or seriously threatened, Herod, like Gallio, cared for none of these things.
During the imprisonment of the Baptist, Herod seems to have had several interviews with him, and learned to appreciate his bold and fearless honesty, (Mark vi. 20.) He did many things that John recommended, and heard him gladly. Hence, when in his drunken revelry he had given up the Baptist to the malice of Herodias, he was troubled in conscience ; and his ears were open to any tidings that had connection with the departed prophet.
Greswell, iii. 428.
It was a short time before this that Jesus had sent out the Twelve; a step that would naturally turn public attention to Him, and which might easily be misinterpreted. It would arouse His watchful enemies to action, for it apparently indicated a purpose to disseminate His doctrine more widely, and to make disciples in larger numbers. It might thus easily, through them, reach the ears of Herod, who would be led to inquire more particularly into the character and works of the new Rabbi. But his informants gave him different answers, (Mark vi. 14, 15 ; Luke ix. 7, 8.) Some said that He was Elias; others that He was a prophet, or as one of the prophets; and others still, ignorant of His earlier work, said that He was John the Baptist risen from the dead. This last account, to the uneasy and superstitious mind of Herod, was most credible, and explained how He wrought such mighty works as were ascribed to Him. Returned to life, he could do what could be done by no one in mortal flesh, (Matt, xiv. 2 ; Mark vi. 14.) All this awakened in Herod a lively desire to see Jesus, but no intimation is given us that he designed to arrest Him, or to hinder Him in His work. Thus far the Messianic claims of the Lord had been purposely kept in the background; and there was nothing in His teachings or actings, to awaken Herod's jealousy of Him as a claimant of the throne. At no period does the king seem to have looked upon Him with any dislike, or fear, as a political leader. The threatenings of the Pharisees at a later period, that Herod would kill Him, (Luke xiii. 31,) seem to have been a device of their own to frighten Him from His labors.
According to Josephus,1 John was put to death at Machaerus, a fortress at the southern extremity of Perea on the borders of Arabia.
i Antiq., 18, 5.2.
When the first wife of Herod, learning his design to marry Herodias, fled from him to her father Aretas, king of Arabia, this fortress belonged to the Arabians.1 At what period did it come into the hands of Herod ? Greswell (iii. 423) supposes that John reproved Herod, when he knew that a marriage with Herodias was intended, and before its completion. Having imprisoned John, he departed to Rome, and on his return beheaded him. According to this order of events, Herod now had possession of Machaerus, but it very soon fell into the hands of Aretas, and was in his hands when his daughter fled from Herod. But the common interpretation of the Evangelists, that Herod had taken Herodias as his wife before he was reproved by John, is most probable. Very soon, therefore, after his first wife's return home, this fortress must have been captured by Herod, but when or how we have no knowledge.2 It has been questioned whether Herod would have made a birthday feast at the southern extremity of his dominions, where it would be difficult for the courtiers and noblemen of his court to attend. Still, if we remember that the Jews generally were in the habit of going up from the most remote parts of the land to Jerusalem, once or more every year to the feasts, the journey of a few courtiers to Machaerus will not seem strange. Besides, if Herod was detained there through the war, or other cause, the feast must follow his pleasure; and if Machaerus was not convenient to his guests from Galilee, it was more convenient to those from Perea.
Some, however, have supposed that the feast did not take place at Machaerus, although John was beheaded there, but at Tiberias, or at Julias.
i Antiq., 18. 6.1 and 2.
2 Gams, der Taufer, 47. This supposed inconsistency in Josephus has led some to doubt whether indeed the Baptist was imprisoned at Machaerus.
* Meyer, Alford, Gams.